The story goes like this:
Year of the Pig sparks some porkies
By Rowan Callick
February 01, 2007 09:36am
ON February 18, the Chinese world will usher in the new year of an animal, but its identity will be suppressed.
A billion people will view China's - and the world's - most-watched annual television show, the Chinese New Year's Eve variety spectacular, but the viewers will be no wiser as to which animal is involved.
The Chinese Government has decreed that the Year of the Pig will be celebrated with the least possible offence to the country's 21 million Muslims, for whom the porker is a dirty, offensive animal whose flesh must not be eaten.
So this year, China Central TV's big event will be more like a politically correct school Christmas pageant in which participants must not mention Jesus for fear of being seen as biased.
The Shanghai Islamic Association told The Australian: "In the last festival TV show to celebrate this year (12 years ago), the program was full of images of pigs, some of them quite grotesque, and many Muslims were unhappy and complained.
"So we're pleased the Government has made this move."
The director of the Minorities Association in Shanghai, Huo Engjie, who is a Muslim, said: "Although we comprise fewer than 2 per cent of China's population, this ban shows how much the Government respects us. It's very moving."
Advertising agencies have received a letter from CCTV telling them: "Since China is a multicultural country, and to respect the religious beliefs of Muslims, images of pigs should be avoided during 2007." The letter adds, in case the renminbi hasn't dropped: "We have received an instruction to this effect from the top level of the Government."
Acquiring air time during the variety show is difficult and immensely costly, and most of the corporations with slots have completed their advertisements.
This creates a big challenge for companies such as Nestle, which have focused on the theme of the Year of the Pig in their commercials. A spokesman said Nestle would naturally comply with the official request. But the company has just a couple of weeks left to shoot a new commercial to fill the slots it has already bought.
China gets most of its oil from Muslim countries in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, where Sudan is its biggest supplier. It is also working hard to build its influence as a country that empathises with, rather than hectors, smaller nations.
China will be pleased to see its anti-porcine edict reported globally, showing its multicultural credentials and sensitivities. But this does not mean it is inclined to give hardline Islamists the benefit of any doubt - for example, police recently raided a training camp in the northwest region of Xinjiang, whose indigenous population, the Uighurs, are mainly Muslim, and killed 18 people they said were terrorists.
But Beijing will not be able to expunge all trace of the troublesome animals, with their jolly red-and-gold images already ubiquitous in stores and markets and many public buildings. And the state-owned China Post has launched a new series of "Year of Piglet" stamps featuring the Winnie the Pooh character as promoted by Disney.
The pig - with pork the most widely eaten meat among China's dominant Han population - is widely viewed as an animal of the zodiac that is honest, trustworthy and, because it is often seen as fat, prosperous. Bookings in hospital labour wards are climbing as couples seek to have children born in the auspicious but awkward Year of the Pig.
This story is doing the rounds of the rightwing blogs and being promoted on discussion forums by the usual suspects. While it is rather odd of the Chinese government to ban pigs from adverts, it is not my place to fathom the logic of the totalitarian mind set. Suffice to say, the article is misleading. It is absurd to say, as it so plainly does, that "viewers will be no wiser as to which animal is involved." Those with an axe to grind about Islam have started up the usual chorus, claiming the despotic government of China has caved in to Muslim special pleading.
The ban, as far as we can see from the information provided here, applies only to ADVERTS. The main show may well be awash with pigs, for all we know. Only the ad breaks have been declared pig free. Why this must be is a mystery, but as I said i don't pretend to know how the bastards of Beijing arrive at their decisions. Why not ask a Western leader or trade minister, as they have seen fit to move most of our industrial base to South East Asia, simultaneously giving two fingers to their own workers (with their pesky unions, rights and expectations) and the human rights of the Chinese, Tibetans and all the citizens of the world, as we suffer the consequences of China's industrialisation.
Here is a thought. Why might the Chinese government wish to be seen as being extra nice to Muslims? Not through fear or because of oil. I think the real answer is alluded to in the article, but the writer prefers to suggest that the facisto-communist bastards of Beijing have caved into the shadowy hand of international Muslimry. Bullshit. The Chinese junta doesn't give a toss about anyone, they know the whole world depends on them for boxer shorts and toys. Their focus, I suspect, is internal - they don't want to give the Muslims any sort of rallying cry. The government forces, the article mentions, is carrying out raids in Xinjiang province, aimed at the mainly Muslim Uighurs. According to Amnesty International, the Uighurs
... have been the target of systematic and extensive human rights violations. This includes arbitrary detention and imprisonment, incommunicado detention, and serious restrictions on religious freedom as well as cultural and social rights. Uighur political prisoners have been executed after unfair trials.
"In recent years, China has exploited the international "war on terror" to suppress the Uighurs, labelling them "terrorists", "separatists", or "religious extremists".
It is unlikely that the Chinese government fears the hapless Uighurs, but they might be scared of what other people might think about their brutal treatment of them. So best appear to be being extra nice to Muslims sensibilities with regards the pigs-on-TV thing, while shooting the real people in the real world.