A mere two days after 21 were killed in violent attacks in Bachu county, Kashgar, including six police and six ethnic Uighurs, Beijing has politicized the incident, using it to call out the United States for failing to condemn the attacks as “terrorism.” Reuters:
But the U.S. State Department on Wednesday merely expressed regret at the loss of life and urged China to “provide all Chinese citizens, including Uighurs, the due process protections to which they’re entitled.”
The U.S. refusal to condemn the attack showed double standards, considering that it had been the recent victim of a terrorist attack, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.
“We simply oppose the U.S. reversing black and white, confusing right and wrong, and continually refusing to condemn violent terrorist incidents, and instead, making wild accusations about Chinese policy toward ethnic minorities,” she said.
“We hope the U.S. will turn a mirror on itself and all its own domestic problems instead of pointing fingers at other countries.”
Hua has a point, even if she’s approaching it sidewise. The term “terrorism” has always been politically charged, never more so than in the years following 9/11 when warhawks desperately sought ways to rebrand the invasion of Iraq as something other than an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation. Everything is easier to justify when the enemy is nameless Terrorism. And to call oneself a victim of terrorism is to control the narrative: suddenly there is a clear bad guy who must be conquered at all costs, even civil liberties or a country’s guiding principles.
In the succeeding years, we’ve tortured all meaning out of the word. A terrorist used to be a Saudi Arabian in a cave. Then it was a man with a bomb. Yet it’s also a naturalized American citizen who is lost and friendless. And an ethnic Uighur, thousands of miles away, in an unstable region attacking a foreign people? A terrorist is them, powerful in the way that all symbols are, unambiguous and emotive.
Unless it’s not that simple. When someone, in a burst of clarity — a perspective gained from observing at a distance — declares that there is no terrorism, that the situation is a little more complicated than that, what then?
China, it seems, prefers the monochromatic muck, and as such has lobbed a profoundly distasteful political salvo over the bodies of 21 people, 15 of whom were victims, or police officers on duty, caught in the wrong place. Let’s mourn the dead, including the three community workers who paid with their lives for stumbling into the wrong house, and please, out of respect, say no more. Surely there is another time for that.