Diverse Sinophone Groups Voice Support for Gaza

Israel’s war in Gaza has elicited increasing attention from the Sinophone world, as five months of violence have led to the deaths of 32,000 Palestinians, an imminent famine in northern Gaza, and little progress on freeing Israeli hostages. While the Chinese government maintains its criticism of Israel from the sidelines and Chinese state media airs weekly footage of the destruction in Gaza, netizens of diverse backgrounds and across various platforms have spoken out against the Israeli government’s ongoing violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Some of this discourse, particularly by nationalists in mainland China, is motivated by antisemitism and anti-American sentiment. But many voices, particularly in the diaspora, have articulated heartfelt sympathy and intersectional solidarity with Palestinians. They have shared news online, organized events, and launched protests in an effort to raise awareness and combat injustice.

Hongkongers are one group that has mobilized in support of Gaza. New Instagram accounts have emerged, such as From Hong Kong to Palestine (hkpals), to “[harness] the Hong Konger spirit in solidarity with the Palestinian Resistance.” Some of their bilingual posts have highlighted China and Israel’s cooperation in repressing minorities and outlined Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) initiatives. Another group called ZINE COOP, an indie publishing collective in Hong Kong, created 63 different pro-Palestinian zines and posted them on Instagram. The Lausan Collective shared Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese translations of the poem “If I Must Die” by Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike in December. James Lee from the Hong Kong Free Press reported on a demonstration by HK Anti-war Mobilization, a group that took to the streets of Hong Kong last month to protest Israel’s “massacre” in Gaza:

The group of five held a silent protest on Saturday, holding up placards that read “ceasefire now” and “Gaza stop the massacre.” One placard stated that Chinese surveillance camera manufacturer Hikvision aided Israeli surveillance.

The demonstrators read out a statement calling for Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, and for Israel to order a ceasefire and end its blockade of Gaza.

[…] “Israel must order a ceasefire and withdraw its forces, and immediately lift its longstanding blockade on Gaza!” the statement read.

[…] In an Instagram post issued after the demonstration, the group said it opposed the “indiscriminate abduction and killing of Israelis” by Hamas, but that such actions did not justify the “massacre” in Gaza.

Police officers at the scene took down the demonstrators’ personal information, local media reported. [Source]

Taiwanese groups have also been very vocal in support of Gaza. On Instagram, accounts such as theinsecurityleague and gaze4gaza that sprung up after the start of the war have shared dozens of Mandarin Chinese-language news posts highlighting Palestinians’ struggle against Israeli occupation. Other news-media accounts began focusing their coverage on the deteriorating situation in Gaza (coolloud) and even called on followers to help donate money towards e-SIMs for Palestinians in Gaza (yallatw). Uphill Books, a bookstore in New Taipei City, showcased its collection of books on Palestine and shared posts supportive of Palestinian resistance. 

Extending this activism beyond social media, the Taiwan Action Front for Palestine organized a march to the American Institute in Taiwan to protest American support for “Israel’s genocide in Gaza” and to demand a ceasefire. In March, New Bloom Magazine hosted a bilingual event with For Peace Taiwan (Instagram: forpeacetw) titled, “Anti-Colonial Queer Politics, Pinkwashing, & the Critique of Zionist Settler Colonialism,” with a portion of the proceeds going to fund Palestinian relief efforts. Randy Mulyanto at Arab News interviewed some of the groups’ members, who described similarities between Taiwanese and Palestinian struggles for self-determination

“One of the biggest things we have in common with Palestine is that we are a silenced nation. We don’t have a voice on the international stage because Israel controls the voice of the Palestinian people, whereas China controls the voice of the Taiwanese people,” said [Pin-Tsun Huang, a For Peace Taiwan volunteer].

“You can also argue that Taiwan is a lot more like Palestine in that we are facing oppression from an extremely strong militant nation next to us. And we are denied self-determination by them.”

[…] “New Bloom sought to inform the public about Palestine, to hopefully lead to further consideration of places where Taiwan and Palestine share certain similarities or parallels,” said [Brian Hioe, founding editor of New Bloom].

“It is a cause that we feel deserves more attention, and as part of where we stand in Taiwanese society, we hope to push for a shift in social views on the situation.

“This is no different than us standing in solidarity with Hong Kong, Ukraine or elsewhere.” [Source]

Some in the Uyghur community have publicly made connections between different oppressed peoples. The Uyghur Collective, for example, drew sympathetic parallels between Aaron Bushnell’s self-immolation and Tibetan self-immolations. (Aaron Bushnell, a serving member of the U.S. Air Force, died after self-immolating in front of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. in late February to protest the death and suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.) Human-rights lawyer Rayhan Asat referenced similar struggles that Muslims face in Gaza, Xinjiang, Myanmar, and Sudan during Ramadan, and she highlighted common critiques from Uyghurs and Palestinians in response to Chinese officials whitewashing suffering. While the European Uyghur Institute lamented that the wars in Gaza and Ukraine have overshadowed the Uyghur genocide, it shared a principled thread on X (previously Twitter) calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and supporting all victims of colonialism:

We are outraged by the criminalization of actions that support Palestinian victims and of Palestinians’ legitimate struggle for independence and freedom from occupation.

[…] ⚠️ Condemning the despicable and criminal attacks of October 7 by Hamas and supporting the Israeli victims and the hundreds of hostages does not mean supporting the Israeli army or the Israeli government.

👉🏻 In the same way, supporting Palestinian victims, whose number increases every day without end, and supporting Palestinians’ legitimate struggle against occupation and colonialism, does not mean support for Hamas.

🩵@UyghurInstitute being an organization for the rights of the Uyghur people, against Chinese colonialism, naturally supports oppressed peoples who suffer under colonization. 

[…] ❌ But to talk about the future and peace, the bombings must definitively stop and the hostages must be returned home. [French]

Other Uyghur groups have made no comment on the suffering in Gaza. In its Ramadan press release, the Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU) explicitly framed the issue of Muslim suffering as a collective one for all Muslims around the world, but made no mention of the 99 percent of Palestinians in Gaza who are Muslim. CFU Executive Director Rushan Abbas asserted, “This Ramadan, it is imperative for the global Muslim community and advocates for human rights to unite,” but “the resounding silence of the international community has only emboldened the [perpetrators] to openly declare [their] crimes. […] CFU reaffirms that the suffering of Uyghurs during this Ramadan is a collective responsibility not only for the Muslim community but also for a world committed to religious freedom.” Abdulhakim Idris, Executive Director of the Center for Uyghurs Studies, made a similar Ramadan statement that omitted any reference to Palestinian Muslims while decrying the Muslim world’s silence on the oppression of Uyghur Muslims, calling on the world to “become their voice” or risk allowing the CCP “to continue to trample upon Islam and Muslims.”

Several prominent Tibetans have publicly addressed the subject of Gaza. One such figure is Pema Doma, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet, who stated, “Our collective struggles for freedom are forever intertwined. Free Tibet. Free Palestine.” In December, the Boston chapter of Students for a Free Tibet organized a “Tibet x Palestine Teach-in” and condemned “the Israeli regime’s settler-colonial occupation of Palestine.” While amplifying content about China’s technological support to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, scholar Tsering Shakya sympathetically compared Aaron Bushnell’s self-immolation with Tibetan self-immolations, stating, “[I]t is caused by rage sparked by injustice. Rage emerges when change is possible but doesn’t happen.” In an interview with Abhinandan Mishra for India’s Sunday Guardian, writer and poet Tenzin Tsundue viewed Palestinian, Tibetan, Ukrainian, and other freedom struggles through a geopolitical lens:

“Today, freedom struggles are no longer unilateral efforts but multi-interest geopolitics; Ukraine and Palestine are good examples right in front of us. Revolutions rise in those moments of hope when people are beaten to despair and are left with nothing to lose. Xi Jinping’s insecurity, international isolation of China are windows of hope for us, but ultimately the stringent measures in Tibet will push Tibetans towards another uprising.” [Source]

Northern Square is another popular Sinophone diaspora group that has increasingly been commenting on Gaza. A self-described “outlet for people to question the status quo in China” that provides “a space for voices often marginalized in broader narratives,” it has shared resources for learning about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in its Linktree. On its Instagram page, which has over 95,000 followers, it shared a post with Chinese translations of the chapter “Learning from Palestine” from the book “Questions to Ask Before Your Bat Mitzvah.” The book offers reflections on questions to help young Jews “feel grounded in the Jewish radical tradition, unlearn Zionism, and deepen their solidarity with Palestinians.” Northern Square shared another post, along with other Sinophone groups, urging their followers to sign an open letter calling on the Venice Biennale to reject Israel’s participation, given the ongoing “genocide” in Gaza. 

On International Women’s Day, several Chinese feminist groups from around the world collectively shared a bilingual Instagram post linking feminist principles to the Palestinian struggle for liberation. These groups include Cnfeminsimto (whose members are both in mainland China and Canada), nvzei_collective_wbg (from the College of William and Mary in the U.S.), feminsitchina_jp (from Japan), crispydcfeminists (from Washington, D.C.), weareallchainedwomen, and pal_solidarity_zh

“Today, on International Women’s Day, let us honor the Palestinian women with respect, recognizing their resilience in the struggle against Israeli colonization, occupation, and genocide. They are beacons of their time, illuminating the path of revolution.

As diasporic Chinese queer/feminist activists, we shall remember:

[…] We oppose colonial feminism’s tactics to justify and normalize the ongoing Zionist occupation of Palestinian homeland, expulsion of Palestinians, and endless warfare waged upon Palestinian life.

We reaffirm that Palestine is a feminist issue and assert that feminism is incompatible with Zionism. [Source]

The Palestine Solidarity Action Network, working across continents to “end Chinese complicity in Israel’s occupation, apartheid, and war crimes,” has been a particularly vocal diaspora Sinophone group. Among its dozens of Instagram (pal_solidarity_zh) posts and hundreds of Twitter posts is a Chinese translation of the poem “Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People are Dying,” by Palestinian-American poet Noor Hindi, and another post criticizing the “complicity” of Chinese universities, academics, and students in Israel’s “systematic persecution of Palestinian cultural and educational institutions.” This Thursday, the group organized an online teach-in titled, “From Palestine to ‘Xinjiang’: Against Settler Colonialism and Surveillance State,” with anthropologist Darren Byler. On International Women’s Day, it shared a separate Instagram post highlighting the need for intersectional approaches to combat state repression of marginalized groups in China and Israel:

[W]e also see how important the Palestinian liberation movement is for China’s decolonial feminism, because the shameful excuse of liberating local women from patriarchy is also used by the Chinese Communist Party to justify its oppressive rule in minority areas. While the Chinese authorities exploit individual Uyghur women like Dilraba on the Spring Festival Gala to promote ethnic harmony, they claim that forced birth control measures “liberate the minds of Xinjiang Uyghur women and extensively promote gender equality and reproductive health concepts, so that they are no longer reduced to breeding machines.” Large numbers of Uyghurs are incarcerated in prisons and concentration camps, where Uyghur women suffer violence such as sexual assault and forced sterilization. Although the Chinese authorities treat actual feminists as enemies, Islamophobia spreads throughout China under a similar narrative of imperialist feminism: Ordinary people easily accept the image of Uyghur men as “terrorists” and the image of Uyghur women as needing to be rescued. Under the threat of state violence, Uyghur women are forced to accept “Han–Uyghur marriages” as a form of sexual violence.

When Rayhan Asat, a Uyghur human rights lawyer advocating for the rights of Palestinians, questions the disappearance of Han Chinese solidarity, how can we not stand with all survivors? When we are outraged by the plight of the Chained Woman of Feng County, how can we separate ourselves from our Uyghur sisters? At the same time, while the Chinese authorities appear to stand with Palestine geopolitically, we must also see that Israel and China are using the same rhetoric and methods for genocide. Therefore, we also implore Palestinians and their supporters to stand with the Uyghurs rather than being divided by campism. [Source]

On various social media platforms in China, netizens have voiced solidarity with Palestinian suffering in Gaza. On the question-and-answer site Zhihu, a user asked why Aaron Bushnell’s self-immolation resonated so deeply with the Chinese people. One of the answers, with over 800 likes, drew a connection between Bushnell’s sacrifice and similar incidents of self-sacrifice throughout Chinese history. Some of the top comments on Bilibili videos have expressed sympathy for the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. Under one video showing the suffering Gaza has endured since October, over a thousand people liked this comment: “The Palestinian people persevere. National independence requires courage and sacrifice. The Chinese people empathize with your suffering. We support you and hope for the birth of a new Palestinian state.” 

On WeChat in December, an account named 日新说Copernicium translated into Mandarin an article from The Nation about the stories of queer Palestinians in Gaza during Israel’s war. (The stories had originally appeared on the online platform Queering the Map.) In 日新说Copernicium’s introduction, archived by CDT, the author meditated on the forces that repress love, and on the importance of sharing stories across boundaries:

“Queering the Map” can be seen as a digital repository of queer memory, an effort to preserve those memories even as the storytellers witness their loved ones being killed and find their own lives in imminent danger. Beyond the shocking horror of seeing Palestinian bodies destroyed by Israeli missiles, the memories of Palestinians in Gaza also serve as a connective tissue for people like me, knitting us together. Like them, I too experienced my first awakening; I too have been in love, and have had to hide it for various reasons.

I think about them, and wonder if they have managed to survive the U.S.-supported Israeli air strikes. Will they be able to add new stories to “Queering the Map”? Will they be able to harness their love and memories to rebuild Gaza in their image? Will they one day be free from occupation, free from travel restrictions, able to travel the world and experience the beating heart of queer communities around the globe, and then return home to Gaza to share their stories with their nearest and dearest? Will they recall the parties they attended, the people they kissed, the meals they shared, and the queer memories they created? Or perhaps they have already passed into a different world, their love immortalized like the stories they recorded. Are they together now, walking hand in hand along the shore of a Gaza without bombs? [Chinese]

Alexander Boyd contributed research to this post. Cindy Carter contributed translations.


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