Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Immediate response

I'm not sure how I feel about Maori TV screening the Chinese Government's film, Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth, immediatately after 10 Conditions of Love. Two reasons why.

First because it gives the impression this is rebuttal of the image of Kadeer presented in 10 Conditions ..., which it is not. Second, because I'm a pampered westerner I find images of people being kicked and clubbed to death disturbing, especially when they are presented without adequate warning. The program was preceded by a generic warning about violent contents - as had preceded 10 Conditions of Love. Ten Conditions ... contained a very few, shocking moments of mass public execution. Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth contained extensive, graphic footage of people being beaten and kicked to death.

I wonder if anyone at Maori TV had even watched the film before broadcasting it. It wasn't scheduled, which suggests it was a last minute decision. The announcement that Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth would follow 10 Conditions ... was made part way through the latter, which would be bizzare if they had planned it as a follow up. Perhaps a copy was made available to them, and they decided to go with it.

So this will be more about Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth than about 10 Conditions of Love. The latter was a fairly routine account of Kadeer's life, contianing little nbew information and only giving her a chance to demonstrate her magnetic personality and her sense of humour - perhaps that is what the intrisically humourless Maoists found so disconcerting. But there was nothing that couldn't have been gleaned from her biography on wikipedia.

Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth fell into several parts.

The first part was a genuinely embarrassing hymn to the glories of unity and harmony, illustrated with kitschy tourist ad style visuals showing Uighurs happily enjoying their cultural practices in slightly too vivd technicolour. Thankfully it was over in seconds.

The next portion was made up of footage of the riot of the 5th of July. It was shocking, but no-one has denied that a riot didn't happen, or that the violence against Han Chinese was anything other than repulsive. Some - myself included - have suggested something like this would occur as a result of the policy of ethnic saturation the Beijing government has waged for the last 50 years - but explaining why something happens is not the same as saying that it is good or okay that it happened. It just puts some responsibility on the authoritites in Beijing, set the whole sorry thing in motion when they decided to swamp the region with Han to stop the Uighurs finding any democratic means to achieve independence.

This section served one very obvious purpose - to sicken and repell the viewer so that the response to whatever came next would be visceral, not rational. It is hard to consider things cooly when your head is full of the images of someone being kicked repeatedly in the head, or smashed to a pulp with iron bars. But that is the point of propaganda, isn't it?

The next section was the most important part, where an attmetp was made to link the riots with Kadeer's World Uighur Congress. It is repeated several times that events were organised and planned, but what is not shown is that a riot was intended. Kadeer and others are quoted talking about a 'demostration' and as far as can be deduced from the information given, it seems like it was an international show of Uighur solidarity, not a bloodbath. Out of context, the quotes seem sinister. Kadeer is quoted, from the 4th of July, saying:
Many things have happened and we all know something will happen tommorrow evening in Urumqi. (1)
Which might seem ominous, if you persist in thinking she's talking about a planned blood bath. On the other hand, if she's talking about a demonstration, it is innocuous enough.

A lot is made about what was said in the days immediately after the riot, by Kadeer and others. But the situation was very confused - Beijing put a stranglehold on the region and very little hard information was available. It isn't susprising that people were confused abotu what was actually happening and that false information was given. All of which points not to some dastardly conspiracy, but to people reacting to a situation that's moving too quickly for them.

An example of this is the use of footage of Kadeer being interviewed on Al Jazeera, on July the 7th, showing a photograph she alleged was of the Urumqi riot. Infact, it was of a riot in Shisou a few days earlier - but the mistake was originally by Reuters, who used the image on the 6th of July, identifying it as Urumqi (2). The judicious narrator says Kadeer was spreading "rumours" and adds that the image had been widely distributed before the July riot, creating the impression it was a WUC orchestrated fraud. That Kadeer was responding in good faith to an image provided by a reputeable news source isn't explained, and the viewer is left with the impression that Kadeer was peddling a falsehood.

Frequently, throught out this section, images of the riot are repeated, ensuring that the immediate reaction is gut revulsion, and diverting the viewer's attention from the tenuous links they attempt to draw between the WUC and the violence.

Finally, we're back to where we started, assured that peace and harmony has return to the region, and the day days of seperatist agitation are in the past. Which is, of course, nonsense. Nothing, fundamentally, has changed, except some people ahve died and some people's lives have been wrecked. And July the 5th will not be the last time this happens.
1 - Rebiya Kadeer, quoted in Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth.
2 - As per Wikipedia's sumamry of events, "July 2009 Ürümqi riots: media coverage." Viewed on 1st of September, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_2009_%C3%9Cr%C3%BCmqi_riots#Media_coverage)

1 comment:

Erland said...

Thank you for posting on this. The 10 Conditions of Love is not intended to be a follow-up to the July 5th riots. In fact, after watching the film on Ms. Kadeer, people may realize that the propaganda film that follows is just that, propaganda.

I am very upset with Maori Television for airing the Chinese owned film: Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth.

-Erland
http://uyghurblog.com