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China Change, October 8, 2018   This weekly bulletin is NOT a news summary of the week, but a reading of ‘signs’: signs of quickening changes and shifting ground. Not every new development is suited to a fully fleshed-out analysis, and as with so much in China, many reports cannot be immediately confirmed or properly evaluated. Nevertheless, while each individual brush stroke may not be decisive, we hope that upon stepping back a fuller picture would emerge. Sign of China catalogues and contextualizes these items so as to grow an awareness and keep a record of sort. As incomplete as it is destined to be, we hope the series is edifying and useful. — The Editors     Pence’s Speech and Two Emblematic Chinese Responses […]


China Change, September 30, 2018 Unsettling news from China emerges every week — on social media, in reports, and from our own sources in the country. Not every new development is suited to a fully fleshed-out analysis, and as with so much in China, many reports and developments cannot be immediately confirmed or properly evaluated. Nevertheless, while each individual brush stroke may not be decisive, upon stepping back a fuller picture begins to emerge. China Change catalogues and contextualizes these items so as to keep a growing awareness of changes in China.  — The Editors       ‘Public-private partnerships’ 2.0: la chasse à courre Chinese officials have come out with a string of comments recently that have spooked private companies. The first was a […]


China Change, September 16, 2018   Unsettling news from China has been emerging in a constant stream for some time now, in news, on social media and from our own sources in the country. Not every new development is suited to a fully fleshed-out analysis, and as with so much to do with China, many reports and developments cannot be immediately confirmed or properly evaluated. Nevertheless, while each individual brush stroke may not be decisive, upon stepping back a fuller picture begins to emerge. China Change today inaugurates a new, regular series titled ‘Signs of China,’ where we catalogue and contextualize what might otherwise have been forgotten as ephemera. What are these signs pointing to? Our discerning readers will know. — The Editors     […]


September 4, 2018     The Governments of Australia, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and the United States, and the European Council:   We are a group of students, scholars and professionals from China and Chinese-occupied territories. We call upon you to urge China to release the well-regarded Uyghur human rights leader Prof. Ilham Tohti, amid reports of students, scholars and professionals disappearing and dying in concentration camps and prisons in the occupied region of East Turkestan (known as Xinjiang in Chinese). The Chinese occupying authorities are cracking down on Uyghurs with the use of widespread surveillance, language restrictions, elimination of cultural and religious expression, forcible political indoctrination, family separation, and mass incarceration. Prof. Ilham criticized oppressive policies such as these, and called for dialogue, reconciliation and […]


August 10, 2018     It is now clear, from numerous reliable sources, that shocking human rights atrocities are being perpetrated in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR). The Communist Party authorities have established a large number of political re-education centers in Xinjiang, detaining people without any judicial process, stripping them of their personal liberty, imprisoning them, and detaining them for indeterminate ‘sentences.’ Estimates of the numbers detained range from hundreds of thousands to over a million, primarily targeting Uighurs, but also Kazakhs, Hui people, and other minorities who follow Islam. Among those detainees are peasants, workers, university, college, high-school and middle-school students, teachers, poets, writers, artists, scholars, the head of a provincial department, bureau chiefs, village chiefs, and even Uighur police officers. […]


China Change, November 8, 2017     The city of Weimar announced on June 30 that, in compliance with the Weimar City Council’s recommendation, they were awarding this year’s Weimar Human Rights Prize to Ilham Tohti in recognition of his work upholding the rights of the Uighur people and promoting understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese. In accordance with tradition, the Prize is awarded every year on December 10—International Human Rights Day. The Weimar City Council, in announcing the award, said: “As a professor of economics and sociology at the Central University for Nationalities (Minzu), for decades Ilham Tohti spared no effort in publicizing the economic and social difficulties faced by Uighurs in Xinjiang. At the same time he advocated the peaceful coexistence of Uighurs, […]


Yaxue Cao, November 1, 2017     Li Aijie (李爱杰) is from Henan province, China’s central plains. She married a man named Zhang Haitao (张海涛) in Urumqi, Xinjiang, who moved from Henan to the far northwestern region in the 1990s seeking job opportunities after being laid off from a state-owned enterprise. He made a living trading in electronics. The couple were very much in love. Embittered by personal injustices in the hands of authorities, he was attracted from 2009 onward to the thriving rights defense activism around the country. He partook in online forums that discussed democratic ideas; he volunteered for the human rights website Human Rights Campaign (“权利运动”); he signed a petition urging the Chinese government to abolish the extra-legal Reeducation Through Labor detention system; he gave interviews […]


China Change, September 22, 2017 We believe that the combination of reduced visits, denial of communication, gag orders, and family reprisals, have been carefully engineered to punish the Uighur scholar with degrading treatment and psychological torture, while at the same time keeping the attention on his plight from the outside world to a minimum.   September 23, 2017, marks the 3rd anniversary of the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti’s sentencing to life in prison for peacefully speaking out for the economic, cultural, political and religious rights of the 10 million Uighur people inhabiting the northwestern region known as Xinjiang. A Summary of the Case Ilham Tohti is the most renowned Uighur intellectual in the People’s Republic of China. For over two decades he has worked tirelessly […]


Li Aijie, April 29, 2017 This is the second and last installment of Li Aijie’s account of her trip. Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 15 years in prison on January 15, 2016, for “inciting subversion of state power” and 5 years for “providing intelligence to foreign organizations.” He’s currently imprisoned in Shaya Prison in remote western Xinjiang. He believes that he is innocent, and has retained an attorney to represent him for a petition for retrial (申诉). — The Editors     On April 22, 2017 I took a train from Urumqi, and arrived in Aksu on the morning of April 23 at around 8:00 a.m. Human rights volunteer Huang Xiaomin (黄晓敏) was already waiting at the train station. After breakfast the four of us—Huang, […]


China Change, September 19, 2016       Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木), a Uighur scholar known for his incisive writings on China’s policies in Xinjiang, was named by the European Parliament to be one of the five nominees for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on September 15. Ilham has for years been a vocal advocate for the economic, cultural, and religious rights of Uighurs in Xinjiang. His role as a rational voice for Uighur autonomy led to his arrest in January, 2014, and a sentence to life imprisonment in September that year. Incidentally, on the same day that Ilham won the nomination, Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was received by the European Parliament where he spoke of his admiration for “the spirit of […]


André Gattonlin, Marie Holzman, and Noël Mamère, July 18, 2016 This is a translation of Donnons le prix Sakharov à un intellectuel ouïghour published in the French newspaper Libération on July 14, 2016. – The Editors   The Sakharov Prize is awarded every year in October, to honor individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. The award, which was created in 1985 by the French MP Jean-François Deniau, may well be awarded this year to an Uighur intellectual who was sentenced in 2014 to life in prison. It turns out that this professor from Minzu University (University for Nationalities) in Beijing had been discovered in 2008 by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was invited to spend […]


Yaxue Cao, May 31, 2016 On May 25, a conference titled “Does China Want Real Ethnic Harmony? Professor Ilham Tohti in Perspective” was held in the European Parliament in Brussels. It was sponsored by MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe; MEP Barbara Lochbihler, with the Greens/European Free Alliance and the vice-chair of Subcommittee on Human Rights of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, gave the closing remarks. Both members displayed a sound grasp of the plight of Uighurs and Ilham Tohti’s case, and explained how the Sakharov Prize should be seen as a vehicle of change. I spoke along with five other panelists from academia and human rights groups in Europe and the US, and together we made the case […]


By Wai Ling Yeung, May 13, 2016   Recently a video of a 5-year-old Hui Muslim kindergarten pupil from Gansu province reciting verses from the Qur’an went viral on China’s social media, attracting almost unanimous condemnation from presumably Han Chinese netizens. At a discussion forum, for example, several comments labelled the preaching of religion to children as “evil cult” behavior. They called for netizens to “say no to evil cults and to stop evil cults from invading schools.” Others questioned why schools allowed children to “wear black head scarves and black robes as if they’re adults.” They also expressed support for legislation that “set an age limit to religious freedom.” One comment went as far as asking all Hui Muslims to move to the Middle […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: February 24, 2016   Ilham Tohti, the renowned Uighur scholar who was sentenced to life in prison on charges of “splitting the country” has been denied visitation by his family over the Chinese New Year. Reports had earlier indicated that Ilham’s brother would be visiting him in prison on February 18, but according to his friend, Beijing-based dissident Hu Jia, speaking to Voice of America, Ilham’s brother was effectively denied permission. Hu Jia learnt of the news through Ilham’s wife. Given the lack of further information about the reasons for the denial, supporters are worried about Ilham’s physical and mental health. Hu Jia visited Ilham’s wife and children twice recently, taking the the two boys to a science and technology museum […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: February 21, 2016 Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 19 years in prison for 69 WeChat posts and 205 Twitter posts, including retweets.  The judgement named Voice of America and Radio Free Asia “foreign hostile websites,” an absurdity that affronts the very idea of law. — The Editors   Appeal proceedings began on February 18 for the sentence of rights defender Zhang Haitao (张海涛) to 19 years imprisonment in Xinjiang, on charges of “inciting subversion of state power,” according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an authoritative source for news on rights activists in China. The report cited the efforts of Guangdong lawyer Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), who, accompanied by Zhang’s relatives, met with a Judge Wang who agreed to submit the dossier to […]


Updated on December 10, 2018, the International Human Rights Day   Prepared by Late Elliot Sperling, professor of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University  Yaxue Cao, editor of ChinaChange.org and the Ilham Tohti Initiative   Ilham Tohti is the most renowned Uyghur public intellectual in the People’s Republic of China. For over two decades he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Chinese over the present-day repressive religious, cultural and political conditions of the Uyghurs, a Muslim Turkic people living mostly in modern China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. As a result of his efforts he was sentenced in September, 2014, to life in prison following a two-day show trial. He remains a voice of moderation and reconciliation in spite of what […]


By Yaqiu Wang, published: January 21, 2016   On January 15, rights activist Zhang Haitao (张海涛) was sentenced to 19 years in prison by the Urumqi Intermediate Court in the northwest Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The 44-year-old Zhang was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and “probing and illegally supplying intelligence abroad” (为境外刺探、非法提供情报罪). The court also ordered the confiscation of his personal assets of 120,000 yuan ($18,000). The accusations leveled against Zhang include publishing online articles attacking socialism, assisting the work of foreign media, and “rumormongering.” The harsh sentence handed down to Zhang, a Han Chinese, came as a surprise to both Zhang’s lawyer and family. Lawyer Li Dunyong (李敦勇), who represents Zhang, told China Change that he believed the heavy sentence has a lot […]


Translation published: January 15, 2016 Ilham Tohti was an economics professor at Minzu University in Beijing and the foremost Uighur public intellectual in the People’s Republic of China. He was sentenced to life in prison in September 2014 for criticizing the government’s policies in Xinjiang and advocating basic economic, cultural, religious and political rights for the Uighur people. The translation is based on the Chinese transcript of a VOA interview with Ilham Tohti in November 2013, shortly after the car crash of a Uighur family in Tiananmen Square on October 28, 2013, and less than three months before his detention on January 15, 2014. You may also want to watch our 32-minute documentary about Ilham Tohti. – The Editors   BEIJING – The Chinese government has included Xinjiang and Tibet […]


Translated From a Report Posted by RFA on October 16, 2015   Noted French Sinologist Prof. Marie Holzman, someone who knows Ilham Tohti, is calling on the European Parliament to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Ilham, a well-known Uyghur intellectual who has been sentenced to life in prison, and to speak out more forcefully on his behalf. When Prof. Holzman, a noted French Sinologist, went to China as a student in the 1970s, she met several youths who at the time were opposing the Chinese dictatorship and struggling for democracy. Later on, the representative figure for this group of youths, Wei Jingsheng (魏京生), received a sentence of 15 years imprisonment. This spurred Prof. Holzman to become one of the Sinologists in the […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 19, 2015   ChinaChange.org Editor’s Note: This article, a total of 24,000 characters in Chinese, was first posted on the Daxiong Gonghui (大象公会) website sometime after the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti’s arrest in January, 2014. Daxiong Gonghui described the origin of the article in a note: “This document was written by Ilham Tohti, Associate Professor of Economics at Minzu University of China (formerly Central Nationalities University), in response to a 2011 request from high-level officials in the Chinese government. Ilham Tohti made first-draft revisions to this document in October of 2013, but was unable to complete a final draft.” The post has since been censored and is only available elsewhere as reposts. Ms. Yaxue Cao, the […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 19, 2015 Continued from I. Unemployment, II. Bilingual Education, III. Religion, IV. Ethnic Alienation and Segregation, V.  Distrust of Ethnic Minority Officials and Intellectuals, VI. The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and VII. Governmental Competence and Credibility   VIII. Han Chinese Chauvinism Overview The preamble to the Chinese Constitution once read: “In the struggle to safeguard national unity, we must oppose Han chauvinism, as well as combat ethnic nationalism.” In the Mao era, the two phrases “ethnic nationalism” and “Han chauvinism” would often appear together in discussions of ethnic relations, but today, the phrase “Han chauvinism” has completely disappeared from everyday conversation. Our government has always proclaimed its opposition to “Han chauvinism” as well as “ethnic nationalism,” yet virtually […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 12, 2015 Continued from I. Unemployment, II. Bilingual Education, III. Religion, IV. Ethnic Alienation and Segregation, V.  Distrust of Ethnic Minority Officials and Intellectuals, and VI. The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.   VII. Governmental Competence and Credibility Overview There is a vast disparity between economic and social development in Xinjiang and in other regions of mainland China. This disparity extends to the official mindset: at all levels of government in Xinjiang, we encounter a mentality that falls far short of what is needed to govern and manage Xinjiang’s societal complexities. The class struggle and dictatorial mindset that died out so long ago in other parts of China (particularly in the economically-developed coastal regions) still exists, to varying degrees, […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 11, 2015 Continued from I. Unemployment, II. Bilingual Education, III. Religion, IV. Ethnic Alienation and Segregation, and V.  Distrust of Ethnic Minority Officials and Intellectuals   VI.  The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) Overview Today’s Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps [XPCC, or simply “the Corps”] is a most insular and unique organization. It is often informally described as “an army with no military budget; a government that pays taxes; a labor union made up of farmers; and a business that is a society of its own.” Opinion regarding the role and function of the Corps is polarized. Officially and in public, the Corps is portrayed as a protector and symbol of social stability in Xinjiang, as […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: May 4, 2015 Continued from I. Unemployment, II. Bilingual Education and III. Religion   IV. Ethnic Alienation and Segregation Overview Among the openly talked-about problems affecting ethnic relations in Xinjiang, perhaps the most important is the increasing sense of alienation among ethnic minorities. But beyond this psychological sense of alienation, there is another, even more severe problem that few people (Uighurs in particular) are willing to discuss openly: the problem of physical ethnic segregation. By physical or macro-level segregation, I mean that Xinjiang’s Han Chinese population tends to be clustered in areas of relatively high population density. In fact, the vast majority of Xinjiang’s Han Chinese population is concentrated in three areas, all of which are effectively […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: April 23, 2015   Continued from I. Unemployment II. Bilingual Education Overview Besides unemployment, the issue that provokes the most intense reaction within Xinjiang’s Uighur community is the issue of bilingual education. In practice, “bilingual education” in Xinjiang has essentially become “monolingual education” (i.e. Mandarin-only education.) Within the Uighur community, there is a widespread belief that the government intends to establish an educational system based on written Chinese and rooted in the idea of “one language, one origin.” Suspicions abound that the government is using administrative means to exterminate Uighur culture and accelerate ethnic and cultural assimilation. With the mandatory implementation of so-called “bilingual education,” the Uighur language has become steadily marginalized, not only in the field of […]


By Ilham Tohti, translated by Cindy Carter, published: April 22, 2015   This article, a total of 24,000 words in Chinese, was first posted on the Daxiong Gonghui (“大象公会”) website after the Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti’s arrest in January, 2014. Daxiong Gonghui described the origin of the article in a note: “This document was written by Ilham Tohti, associate professor of economics at Minzu University of China (formerly Central Nationalities University), in response to a 2011 request from high-level officials in the Chinese government. Ilham Tohti made first-draft revisions to this document in October of 2013, but was unable to complete a final draft.” The post has since been censored and is only available elsewhere as a repost. I was able to confirm the origin and the […]


By Ilham Tohti, published: September 25, 2014 On Wednesday, September 24, 2014, lawyer Li Fangping met with Ilham in Urumqi Detention Center, Xinjiang. Ilham signed a 15-page appeal to be submitted by his lawyers. Meanwhile Li Fangping recorded Ilham’s statement:   My outcries are for our people and, even more, for the future of China. Before entering prison, I kept worrying I wouldn’t be able to deal with the harshness inside. I worried I would betray my conscience, career, friends and family. I made it! The upcoming life in prison is not something I’ve experienced, but it will nonetheless become our life and my own experience. I don’t know how long my life can go on. I have courage; I will not be fragile. If […]


By Ilham Tohti, published: September 17, 2014 The Uighur economics professor, and founder of Uighurbiz website, is on trial today in Urumqi on separatism charges. The following excerpts were compiled by Ilham’s close friend and Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser in February this year shortly after his arrest. – The editor Currently in Xinjiang, a developing tendency is that the authorities are over-extending anti-terrorism measures to conceal other problems in their name, including the incompetence of both the local governments and the security maintenance apparatus. In fact, the biggest problem in Xinjiang is not anti-terrorism, nor is it terrorism, but rather, the problem is that political power is unrestrained, unequal, controlled and monopolized by the very groups that profit from it. ——- I’ve seen this in […]


By Wang Lixiong, published March 3, 2014   (On the evening of March 1, 2014, several knife-wielding men and at least one woman killed 33 and injured more than 140 in the train station in the southwestern city of Kunming. The Chinese authorities blame Uighur separatists for the terrorist attack. — Editor)   People asked how I look at the Kunming incident. I don’t feel I have much more to say. The issue lies not in the incident itself but beyond it, and it has been long in the making. I have said everything in my book My West China; Your East Turkestan (《我的西域; 你的东土》) published in 2007.  I offer the following excerpts from the book to serve as my answer: What is “Xinjiang?” Its […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: June 1, 2012   When I last visited China in 2004, I did what a visiting overseas Chinese typically does: spending time with family and friends, sightseeing, and enjoying the food. In Beijing I felt like a time traveler arriving at a future time from a quiet, immobile past. I hardly recognized the city at all. When my brother drove me from Beijing to Shanxi on sparkling highways that stretched down the endless great middle plain and then through the mountains of Taihang (太行山), tunnel after tunnel, I had to remind myself that these were the same mountains I used to gaze at from the train and observe a rock or a hut basking in the lazy afternoon light. In my […]


In the run up to the London Book Fair focused on Chinese literature, the Guardian is publishing a great series of short fiction works from some of the best authors in China (there are a few works left to be published). Unlike the book fair, which moved to avoid offending their guests from the Chinese gov’t by not inviting any of China’s writers in exile or remaining dissidents (One of these guests is Liu Yandong), this set of works doesn’t worry about hurting the feelings of officials who might wish to show China in a more flattering light. The stories published so far play with some of the expected themes like the rural/urban divide and the challenges of modernity. They also explore some surprisingly dark themes like […]


Last week we looked at why the Two Meetings matter, today we’re looking at what this year’s recurring themes were. Equality Since opening up in the 80’s, gov’t resources have been increasingly targeted at creating advanced cities, abandoning the more equitable development that had been encouraged under Mao. Rural China now finds itself with few medical personnel and crumbling schools while their land is sold out from under them by greedy officials. Meanwhile Chinese cities have benefited immensely from the policies, which has created a wealthy class that in some cases spends more on a single meal than many farmers make in a year. This new wealth has helped spark a real-estate boom that has led to the quadrupling of real-estate prices in some cities, moving housing out of […]


…continued from yesterday “My problem is that the gov’t covers up this information, if the Chinese people knew what was happening they would be outraged,” I said, naively assuming that I understood Chinese people’s complex relationship to the world beyond their borders. With that the younger co-worker began searching for news of Darfur on the Chinese web. Between Western thought and Chinese policy there remains a giant chasm. The U.S. and Europe have reached a consensus that supporting oppressive regimes leads to terribly corrupt countries that are unable to pull themselves out of poverty (Zimbabwe for example).  While China argues that these dictators provide the necessary stability that allows for businesses to open and grow the economy, China itself is the proof of this argument, even though the […]


Yesterday we looked at two of the Party’s central myths concerning China’s role in the world, today I want to look at two more myths that might not be working in the way the Party meant. The important thing to note here with the word “myth” is that I don’t mean to judge these definitively as lies (that’s up to you), but that these are stories told with special meaning to teach a specific lesson to the masses. Happy Minorities If you’ve been reading the People’s Daily these past few weeks in the run up to the Party’s 90th anniversary you are probably more than aware of the fact that China is a family of 56 happy ethnic groups. This is a “fact” that students […]


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