China’s “Stability Maintenance” Policy Goes Hi-tech in the Remote Far West

Over at The Diplomat, Mercy Kuo interviews Darren Byler, an anthropology doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, about how the PRC government is building a database on ethnic Muslim peoples in Xinjiang (Uyghur Biodata Collection in China):

Briefly explain why China is collecting Uyghur DNA data, according to a recent report.

The state is collecting biometric data from the Uyghur population as part of a new

                   Bianminka: Too low-tech?

identification card system. Along with DNA collection, they are creating a registry of fingerprints, blood types, voice patterns, facial imagery – all of which will be correlated to ethnicity, employment, gender, age, foreign travel history, household registration, individual and family criminal history, and religious practice.

Since the beginning of the “People’s War on Terror” in the spring of 2014, the Uyghur population in southern Xinjiang has been subject to a number of experiments in policing. The first passbook ID system that was implemented in Xinjiang was called a People’s Convenience Card (bianminka) system. The vast majority of Uyghurs, particularly the more than 80 percent that are classified as rural, were not permitted to get this “good citizen” card and thus were prevented from leaving their home counties by militarized checkpoints. The state discontinued this passbook system in 2016 and has since installed ID checkpoints throughout every town and county in southern Xinjiang. The new ID system will track the movement and communication of Uyghurs throughout every aspect of daily life. In effect, the Chinese state is weaponizing biomedicine to target and control a population of 11 million Uyghurs.

“Leaving Fear Behind” Tibetan Documentary Filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen (དོན་གྲུབ་དབང་ཆེན་) Escapes from China

In 藏族制片人逃亡美国,曾因拍摄西藏纪录片获刑, the New York Times online Chinese edition reports that Dhondup Wangchen (དོན་གྲུབ་དབང་ཆེན་), earlier imprisoned for shooting the Tibetan documentary Leaving Fear Behind, has fled China for San Francisco, where he has been reunited with his wife and child:

据支持者说,一位知名西藏电影制作人在经历了一次 “艰难且危险的逃亡”之后从中国来到美国。这位制片人曾因拍摄关于藏人在中国统治下生活的纪录片而被捕入狱,他于三年前获释,但之后仍一直处于警方监视之下。

顿珠旺青的表弟为推动让他获释而成立的组织“记录西藏”(Filming for Tibet)表示,现年43岁的顿珠旺青已于12月25日抵达旧金山与妻子和孩子团聚,他的家人已在2012年在美国获得政治庇护。

Click here for full Chinese text.

Wolof-to-Mandarin rendition: The Epic of Jolof King Alburi Njaay (excerpt)

Alburi Njaay, the Muslim ruler of Senegambia in the late 19th century, fought actively — though unsuccessfully in the end — against the French presence in West Africa’s Sénégal, and the colonial power’s efforts to extend its reach to his territory. He is the hero of an orally transmitted epic in Wolof, which has been textualized in French and entitled L’épopée d’Alburi Njaay.  

Wolof is estimated to possess some 10 million speakers in Sénégal, Gambia and Mauritania. A standardized Latin script has been in use since 1985, but earlier scripts co-exist, such as Wolofal, a traditional Arabic-based transcription.

Host of the Chinese-language blog Dayanggung (打洋工) has left Morocco, passed through Western Sahara (disputed territory occupied by Morocco) and Mauritania, and has apparently now reached Sénégal, where he is now being tutored in Wolof.

This is a brief excerpt from the epic, with the Wolof transliteration followed by his Chinese rendition (阿尔布里•恩伽依降生):  


Wal cere

Di togg yápp.

Di teertu.

Alburi Pëya Biram

Ak Biram Penda Njéeme Njote miy boroom këram,

Yàlla def ñu teggi ko,

Dem Ngënëneen.







Click here to read the full text.

Under Threat: ‘Meige’ (梅葛), Creation Epic of the Yi People of Southwest China

In Fading Tones: The Slow Demise of Yunnan’s Epic Songs, Matthew Walsh does a fine job of introducing meige (梅葛), the creation tale of Yunnan’s Yi people (彝族), via on-the-ground research in Mayou village in Yao’an (姚安马游),  interviews with master storytellers, and several short but moving audio clips of the saga as it is still sung:

Passing on the tradition: A ‘meige’ class at a Yao’an primary school. (Photo: Daniel Holmes/Sixth Tone)

YUNNAN, Southwest China — Guo Youzhen takes a deep breath and starts singing about the origins of the universe.

She sings of Gezi, the Creator, who forged the earth and the sky from nothing. She sings of Ah Fu, whose three sons clung fast to the edge of the sky and hauled it downward to meet the earth below. She sings of the pythons that encircled the earth and divided it into uplands and lowlands, the ants that nibbled at the ground’s frayed edges until they all lay straight, and the menagerie of wild animals that applied the finishing touches.

Three pairs of boars, three pairs of elephants,
dug the soil for 77 days and nights.
They made the mountains; they made the hills.
They made the flats, and the beds that water fills.

Guo reaches the end of the verse and pauses for breath. “It’s a very long song,” she smiles. “You could sing for three days and nights, and still not reach the end.”

Big sky, small world — this is right.
Heaven and earth are well-aligned.

There are only a handful of people left who can sing the creation myths of the Yi people, one of China’s 55 official ethnic minorities, from start to finish. The myths form the centerpiece of meige, a style of sung storytelling that has been passed down among Yunnan province’s Yi communities for centuries.

Ürümqi Data Collection: Survey Queries Ethnicity, Frequency and Location of Worship, Countries Visited

Twelve Days in Xinjiang: How China’s Surveillance State Overwhelms Daily Life by Josh Chin and Clément Bürge and published on Dec 19 in the Wall Street Journal is a chilling report worth a full read.

One of the most interesting findings is that the authorities reportedly sent this form to all Ürümqi residents earlier this  year (2017), which asks some rather personal information. The right-most column appears not be part of the form proper; it is how the respondent will be “classified” based on his/her answers.  The English translations in red have been added by the WSJ:



真理部宣布:“首毒拆那事件“?山寨新闻 -- 删!



(China’s Propaganda Ministry has reportedly issued instructions to online media to “refrain from reposting related content, and resolutely delete malicious comments” regarding the current campaign to “purge” the capital of “illegal structures.” See China Digital Times 整治).

Cartoonist Takes the Mickey out of China’s Africa Grab

In How a Lone Ghanaian Cartoonist Stood up to China just published in Quartz Africa, freelance journalist Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu profiles a young artist

“Jollof War” casualty: As West African politicians bicker over which country makes the best version of this beloved rice dish, Xi Jinping makes off with the real prize.

who has emerged as a thorn in the side of China as it works overtime to forge a friendly, ‘win-win’ image for itself as a partner to African business.

Earlier this year, Ghana’s Bright Tetteh Ackwerh drew and published a cartoon that annoyed China’s ambassador to Ghana, who reportedly presented a written complaint to the host government.  But this seemed only to inspire the illustrator, and he has since gone on to sketch several more satirical ones. The one shown here at left is my favorite.


非漂 [Fēi Piāo] 本周精彩语录: 论四川话

Sichuan hua (四川话) sounds like a

remote mountain primate attempting rap-opera

(As uttered by rock musician and peripatetic travel writer 小飞, aka Thomas Bird)



纸托邦网站 (Paper Republic)最近采访了我 (话语权还给少数民族作家 ):


Bruce Humes (徐穆实): 几年以来,为了我的博客 “Ethnic ChinaLit”,我习惯了关注新推出来的 “民族题材”的作品。经常到我所在地的书店(主要是深圳,后来是昆



我翻译的迟子建的小说《额尔古纳河右岸》(Last Quarter of the Moon出版了之后 (2013 年),我开始转型,即不再注意汉族写 “他者” 的故事,而专注少数民族写关于自己民族的作品。2014 年从土耳其回中国,我对北方边界讲阿尔泰语的民族,例如维吾尔族和蒙古人,给予了特别的关注。其实,能用流利的中文写小说的少数民族作家并不太多,所以有关的出版消息比较容易被我发现。

我购买《蒙古里亚》的具体理由我记不清了。可能是我读了冉平的《蒙古往事》 ,得知他 — 还有不少 “蒙古历史专家” — 不会蒙古文的时候,我就开始寻找蒙古作家,想聆听他们的心声。当时应该是我听说郭雪波是地地道道的蒙古人,从小说蒙古语,促使我找他的作品。



Censorship in Xinjiang: Books by former Chairman of the Region are Banned

Authorities in the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region have banned the sale of books by an ethnic Uyghur who served as the region’s first chairman, reports Radio Free Asia (Ban):

Seypidin Azizi (front left): First and last Uyghur politician to hold real power in the CCP?

Observers said the ban — part of an internal party order issued in April last year, but only recently learned of by RFA’s Uyghur Service — highlights the Chinese government’s mistrust of Uyghurs, regardless of their professed loyalty to the party and state, and suggests an official effort is underway to “erase” Uyghur history from the region and the collective national conscience.

Books by the late Seypidin Aziz, including “A Collection of Poetry,” his memoir “The Epics of Life,” and a biographic memoir of Abdulkeri Abbasof “The Eagle of Tengritagh,” have been removed from bookstores in Urumqi following a “special directive” by authorities, sources at several shops in the Xinjiang capital recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service, although they were unable to explain the reason for the ban.

The directive came despite years of service to the Communist Party by Azizi, who served as the first chairman of Xinjiang from 1955-1978 and as vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee from 1993-1998 before his death in 2003.

I have not read any of Seypidin Aziz’s writing. But one scholar based outside the PRC had this to say about him:

His bilingual autobiography:  Out of stock, out of mind

“He is widely regarded by Uyghurs as the first and last Uyghur politician to hold real power in the CCP . . . My sense is that he is now being recast as a Uyghur nationalist/separatist because of the way he pushed back against power and fought for minority rights.”

For more information on Seypidin Aziz (aka Saifuddin Azizi, 赛福鼎·艾则孜, سەيپىدىن ئەزىزى), see: His biography on Wikipedia in English; several Chinese editions of his books on Douban; and a YouTube video (narrated in Uyghur with Chinese subtitles) about his early life, politics and crucial role in the establishment of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.