Protestors in Hong Kong clashed with police in the early morning hours today, reportedly over the removal of illegal street food vendors in Mong Kok. The AP says the violence was the worst in the city since the pro-democracy protests of 2014.
Ursula Gauthier, erstwhile Beijing correspondent for the French newsweekly L’Obs, left China for good in the early hours of January 1. It was not, as they say, of her own volition.
When the clock struck midnight on 2015, Gauthier’s press visa expired and was not up for renewal. According to official organs, she had offended the Chinese people with her November 18 article written in the aftermath of the November 13 terrorist attacks on Paris. Gauthier’s refusal to publicly apologize for remarks concerning China’s attempts to link Paris with its own problems in Xinjiang was taken as the final straw.
Since 1997 in Beijing, it’s been possible to answer “Where can I get a really nasty Old Fashioned and a 900-gram burger at 5am?” “Who’s showing the goat-wrestling qualifiers?” and “What happened to your phone?” with the same words: The Den. Last weekend, that all changed. According to the Beijinger magazine, quoting someone’s WeChat, the city’s only 24-hour all-in-one sports bar, restaurant, short-time hotel, crisis-counseling centre, divorced men’s networking club, Pattaya tribute venue and dipsomaniacal dog whistle is closing.
In a recent article James Leibold, a scholar at La Trobe University in Australia, discussed the way ethnic minority struggles against police and structural violence has often been officially mislabeled "terrorism." At the same time, in China, as in the United States, violent acts carried out by non-Muslims are read as acts of the deranged and mentally ill, but not as "terrorism." In China, as in the United States, the lives of Muslims which are lost as a result of “terrorist” or “counter-terrorism” efforts go unnoticed and unmourned. All losses of life leave gaping holes in our human social fabric, but why are some more grievable than others? What happens when a population is terrified by the discourse of terrorism?
Back in April, signs of the famous Uyghur restaurant chain Herembağ (Eden) began to appear on the streets of San Francisco. A few months later, a location in Fremont was opened in a renovated hotpot restaurant with promises of a third Bay Area location in San Mateo. Like their restaurant locations from Beijing to Astana, Kazakhstan, the American version of Eden serves an upscale version of the traditional Uyghur pasta, lamb, and rice dishes, as well as Hui-inspired northwest specialties such as Big Plate Chicken (dapanji) and Turkish-style döner kebab.
On the top floor of the Aq Saray, or White Palace, hotel in Ürümchi is a massive reproduction of Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David. It is flanked on its left by a reproduction of Ivan Kramskoi’s Portrait of an Unknown Woman (which everyone associates with Anna Karenina). Across the expansive red room, otherwise decorated in the style of a Russian tea room, gigantic reproductions of Venetian canals and cityscapes fill out the walls. Overhead murals of clouds, star constellations, and pheasants in flight glow against the ornate heavy white archways that surround them.