Amid an ongoing crackdown on Uyghur culture in Xinjiang that has been called an effort to “re-engineer” the Uyghur identity and as a form of “cultural genocide,” state-run new media outlet The Paper (澎湃) this week tweeted a video report titled “Notes From Aiding the Border: Where is Green Tea Produced? Xinjiang Children Had no Answer.” The video showed how teachers from the Shanghai Hanweiyang Traditional Culture Promotion Center were teaching “traditional Chinese culture” to primary school students in Bachu County, Kashgar, Xinjiang:
A #Shanghai teacher brings traditional culture from tea to etiquettes to pupils in #Xinjiang as she is assigned to support development there. Children tell The Paper that they’re excited abt such classes cuz they can wear traditional costumes. Full video: https://t.co/VJDacVANkw pic.twitter.com/gq1PqdGdwj
— The Paper 澎湃新闻 (@thepapercn) November 20, 2019
In the video, teacher Jin Qiu uses Mandarin to conduct a class, and in her comments to The Paper mentions that she “discovered a special lack of local traditional culture.” The report shows a Uyghur primary student in traditional Han Chinese dress saying “I am very happy and proud to wear traditional Chinese costume.” A teacher from the Fourth Elementary School in Bachu says that the “students are slowly coming to love this culture, and to understand that this is their country, one they want to love.” The long-running crackdown in Xinjiang has included policies aimed squarely at mitigating elements of local Uyghur culture and religiosity, and since 2017 has culminated in the operation of a network of extralegal internment camps where an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs have been or are being detained.
Replying to The Paper’s tweet, Chinese-speaking Twitter users expressed anger at the coverage and the overarching crackdown in Xinjiang. CDT Chinese has archived Chinese-language replies, several of which are translated here:
@MrZ75041830: Cultural fusion is like dating—based on mutual consent, and not ok to force on others. Even after decades in power, the bandit habits have not changed.
@plainqyu: The government used to crush activities promoting traditional Han dress, fearing it would incite ethnic antagonism. Now, it is actually making ethnic minorities wear traditional Han dress.
@SaddleDave: The CCP has never been kind to traditional Chinese culture, the Cultural Revolution was a movement aimed precisely at abolishing traditional culture. It is now about deceit, speaking not of [the Confucian classic rites of] Righteousness and Ceremonies or wisdom and truth, speaking only of tea drinking. This is intended to take the life out of traditional culture. It wants to both lead the life of a whore and have a monument put up in the name of chastity. Even the thugs have been tricked.
@ISqbqICtyQE8W8m: Nothing wrong with explaining Chinese culture, but to forcibly inculcate Uyghurs, to forcibly wipe their genes, this is evil. Learning Chinese culture must happen under voluntary conditions, not by CCP dominance. The CCP doesn’t deserve to talk about Chinese culture!
Many Twitter-users also expressed their outrage in English:
This type of cultural genocide is obscene. The CCP is poison.#Uyghurs
— Doug in Denver (@EZLVSZ) November 20, 2019
Except that it’s not their traditional culture and what they wear is not their traditional costume.
— Letitia Y. Lin (@Letitiayhlin) November 21, 2019
Children tell the paper they’re excited, as their parents may be tortured if they say otherwise.
— Jim ? (@Jimmy17_) November 20, 2019
Surely not traditional for that region?
— Paul Jones (@swanrivercolony) November 21, 2019
— Mareike Ohlberg (@MareikeOhlberg) November 21, 2019