Genocide in Xinjiang with silence from Canada

The Canadian government’s silence about ongoing genocide speaks volumes

In a mountainous region thousands of miles from the glittering lights of Beijing, a people face cultural extinction. Within the remote and sparsely populated region of Xinjiang, a tremendous evil is at hand while the world watches with an indifferent gaze. The inhabitants of the region, the Uyghur people, with a history spanning thousands of years, face a genocide of epic proportions.

The Uyghurs sit at the eastern edge of the Turkic world. Unlike other Turkic groups, the Uyghurs’ national aspirations suffered following the Qing Dynasty’s 18th-century conquest. Subjugated and deprived of a nation, the Uyghurs were left powerless over their collective future. In the subsequent decades, a series of clashes between various political groups culminated in the 1949 absorption of the Uyghurs into the People’s Republic of China.

Under the new regime, Beijing began a rapid assimilation program bent on enacting conformity across the budding communist nation. The Uyghur language, religion, and culture faced a ferocious onslaught as the Chinese government fought to maintain control over the northwestern region. In the 1950s, the Chinese government ordered the migration of thousands of Han Chinese — China’s largest ethnic group — in the first of many policies promoting assimilation. Consider a report released from Arizona State University indicating the Han population rose from 220,000 (6.9 per cent) in 1949 to 8.4 million (40 per cent) in 2008.

The demographic shift is no coincidence or product of the natural migration of peoples between areas. Instead, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to actively dilute the Uyghurs into a subservient people deprived of their national identity. Under the guise of economic development, Chinese organizations such as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), moved at least hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese into Xinjiang, dramatically shifting the region’s demographics.

In 2014, Xi Jinping, the CCP general secretary and president of China began interning Uyghurs in concentration camps with the “Strike Hard Against Violent Terrorism” campaign. Under the guise of “vocational training” and “re-education,” the Chinese government began the largest internment of people since the Second World War with as many as three million Uyghurs detained.

Today, the campaign is worsening with reports of torture, compulsory sterilization, rape and brainwashing. Forced to recite slogans in Mandarin pledging loyalty to the CCP, beaten for praying, and tortured at the whim of the Chinese authorities, the Uyghurs face individual bodily harm and collective cultural annihilation.

Concurrently, the world continues to grovel to the Chinese government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent Canadian troops to a military parade where they saluted Xi Jinping. Furthermore, the Trudeau government, unlike the other Five Eyes, welcomed Huawei to build a 5G network, despite the company’s role in surveilling Uyghurs.

In the fading days of the Trump administration, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rightfully declared the situation in Xinjiang a genocide. Last week, Parliament unanimously passed a Conservative motion calling on the Liberal Government to recognize China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs as a genocide. Additionally, MPs also passed an amendment introduced by the Bloc Quebecois calling on a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games should the genocide continue.

However, hope of Canada following the United States in holding China accountable collapsed when Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau abstained on behalf of the “Government of Canada.” The abstention ought to shock Canadians as their government chose to ignore the will of Parliament. In doing so, Garneau revealed the dark underbelly of the Trudeau administration — one that claims to cherish and protect minorities while remaining silent in the face of their cultural destruction.

Regardless of the genocide’s progression, the Olympics and all economic activities benefiting China ought to cease. Doing business with a country that utilizes de facto slavery against its own people, imprisons political dissidents, and executes thousands annually is not only an act of complicity, but support.

The lights of the internment camps only remain illuminated because of the world’s economic relations with Beijing. However, concerned Canadians, organizations, universities, and governments can take action through reevaluating engagements with complicit Chinese institutions. In doing so, Canada can proudly defend human rights and perhaps change history. The alternative is a red Maple Leaf affixed to the death certificate of the Uyghur people.


 Graphic by Chloë Lalonde  @ihooqstudios


The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights shines light on the Uyghur population in China

Academics, journalists, and survivors speak about the Uyghur genocide at an online panel hosted by Concordia

China is believed to have imprisoned more than two million Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in interment camps, where they face a cultural genocide. The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights, a research institute at Concordia, held an online panel on Nov. 12 discussing the situation and what can be done.

The panel had guest speakers like Mihrigul Tursun, a camp survivor.

Tursun explained that in 2015, while she was returning to China from Egypt with her newborn children to spend time with her family, she was arrested at the Beijing airport. She was separated from her children and put in one of the internment camps, where she was stripped of her clothes, her head was shaved, and she was forced to use a number as her name.

She talked about how she was tortured, given mystery injections, and taught to worship the Chinese government. When she was released for the first time, she was informed that one of her sons had died from mysterious circumstances.

From 2015 to 2018, she was in the camps three separate times for a total of 11 months. Her time outside the camps was spent stuck in her hometown as the Chinese government had blacklisted her, taking away her ID so she couldn’t travel. She was also unable to contact anyone without the government’s permission.

Tursun stated that she was able to escape China with the help of the Egyptian Embassy in Beijing, as her children were Egyptian citizens. She now lives in America with her family, actively speaking out against what is happening to her people.

Tursun explained during the panel that she has not heard from her family since she escaped.

“I lost contact with my father, mother, sister, brother, all my family.” She said that all she has been able to find out is that five of her family members have died already, and she doesn’t know if the rest are alive or not.

“I hope the Chinese [government will] stop and give back our homeland,” Tursun said.

The Uyghurs are mostly Muslim Turkic ethnicity, the majority of them living in the Xinjiang province of China, where they number around 11 million people. Over the years, China has slowly been taking away the rights of the Uyghurs, outlawing their cultural activities and making the region a police state with police checkpoints and cameras that scan individual faces.

Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian politician and one of the guest speaks at the panel, expressed how he sees the Uyghur camps as the most pressing human rights issue of our time, and is the largest mass incarceration since the holocaust.

Very little information is known about the camps, estimates of the population of these camps vary from one million to 3 million people. According to an article in The Guardian, there are more than 380 suspected camps.

“Nobody could say that we didn’t know [about the holocaust], but we did not act,” said Cotler. “Just as in regards to the plight and pain of the Uyghurs, nobody can say that we did not know.”

“The intent is not necessarily to physically exterminate the entirety of the Uyghur people, but to break their collective identity,” said Sean Roberts, the director of the International Development Studies program at the Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and a speaker at the panel.

He explained that what is happening to the Uyghurs, while still a genocide, is drastically diffrent from what happened during the holocaust.

“These actions [of the Chinese government] are not inspired by eugenics, but by profit, development and settlement,” said Roberts.

According to Dr. Kimberly Manning, principal of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia and speaker at the panel, the idea for said panel came from local Uyghur activists in Montreal. There are over 2,000 Uyghurs living in Canada, with a majority in Toronto and Montreal.

Garnett Genuis, a member of the Conservative Party of Canada and speaker at the panel, said the best way for Canada to make an impact is to boycott and sanction China, yet this will be difficult as Canada heavily relies on China, such as for PPE masks. 

According to a New York Times article, some Chinese companies are using Uyghur labour camps to manufacture single use masks. 

Genuis stated that the best way to influence the Canadian government to make more decisive actions against China is to get in contact with members of parliament and challenge them to act. 


Still from Concordia’s online panel

Poli Savvy: The clock is TikToking

There’s trouble in paradise as Americans’ beloved entertainment app is threatened to be banned

It seems like every week, the U.S. government is threatening to ban TikTok, everyone’s favourite entertainment app.

Though the removal of the app was originally set to happen on Sept. 20, the confusing ebb and flow of Chinese-American politics has unsurprisingly decided against it, pushing it back to this Sunday.

Unsurprisingly though, after weeks of suspense, the ban was finally suppressed by a federal judge.

As of now, we don’t know if the Trump administration will go through with this decision, or if it will be pushed back (yet again).

But the restraints applied to TikTok go beyond preventing young Americans from watching and making viral videos: it has implications with censorship, data privacy, discrimination, and economic relations as well.

A quick 15 second recap

In recent months, the Trump administration has grown increasingly suspicious of TikTok’s soaring popularity, with members of each major party questioning the security of the app, especially after a long investigation into Russian involvement in the American elections.

Though its U.S. headquarters are in Los Angeles, TikTok’s mother company, ByteDance, is Chinese-owned. The same is true of multi-purpose app WeChat, which is owned by China-based Tencent.

Right now, TikTok has an estimated 100 million monthly American users, to WeChat’s more humble 3.3 million (though the latter has recorded around 1.2 billion monthly users across the world).

With a combined usership equating to a third of the US population — or almost three times the population of Canada — the proportions and allegations concerning this decision are huge.

What’s going on with the apps?

Legally, the government of China is entitled to all the data owned by Chinese companies.

For a while now, the U.S. government has been concerned about ByteDance sharing private information, including location and contacts with the Chinese government, which earned them a lawsuit last year.

This comes after other scandals involving TikTok in regards to censorship: leaked documents about their algorithm policies showed they removed videos that were considered “controversial,” including any post which referred to the liberation movement in Tibet, the camps of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province, or the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

On another occasion, some of the apps’ discriminatory policies were also exposed, showing that their algorithms tended to hide the content of “unattractive, disabled, or poor users.”

For some time, the only way for the Trump administration to let TikTok off the hook was to sell it to an American company, which would solve its information-sharing habit.

The top contenders have been Microsoft — but the deal fell through a few weeks ago — Walmart, and Oracle, who are now in talks to buy huge amounts of shares in TikTok, but not enough to please Trump, who won’t rule the ban off the table until the app cuts all ties with its Chinese owners.

Ultimately, prohibiting the operation of these apps seems to be a proxy for the friction in the U.S. and China’s relations.

With constant quarrels about trade, national security, and just the general values of each country’s leader, it is clear that TikTok and WeChat have found themselves at the forefront of yet another political conflict.



What experts think about human rights violations in China

A panel on China’s human rights violations was held in Concordia University’s Faubourg building on Jan. 15.

The experts, who were invited by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), expressed concerns about the Uyghur Muslim concentration camps in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in Western China. They also discussed the brutal repression in Hong Kong and Tibet, as well as China’s increasing influence on the Western world and its implication for the future of democracy.

The event took place just days after Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director Kenneth Roth was denied entry into Hong Kong and HRW’s launch event for its World Report 2020 was disrupted by protestors, according to MIGS executive director Kyle Matthews.

“Human rights issues in China are nothing new,” said speaker Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, Senior Fellow at both the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Science, Society and Policy and the University of Alberta’s China Institute. She listed historical events such as the Cultural Revolution, the Xidan Democracy Wall, and the Tiananmen Square Massacre which she said “trampled on individual human rights in a myriad of ways.”

McCuaig-Johnston continued to explain that although China has lifted more than 800 million people out of poverty since 1978, this is not the same as ensuring individual human rights. She described how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses detention as a pressure tactic against dissidents and the abusive conditions under which they are detained, which were revealed by HRW’s interviews with former prisoners. She also explained the social credit system, in place since 2014, and the CCP’s widespread interference in Western countries.

Both McCuaig-Johnston and Benjamin Fung, a Canada Research Chair in Data Mining for Cybersecurity and an Action Free Hong Kong Montreal activist, highlighted the CCP’s infiltration in Canadian academics and described the pressure on faculty and Chinese students to self-censor criticism of the Chinese government.

The CCP’s use of technology, such as facial and voice recognition for repression, was also extensively discussed by both experts. Fung additionally focused on Chinese companies’ goal to expand the 5G network––he explained that the CCP controls every large corporation in China and that technology companies are obligated to cooperate with Chinese intelligence units.

“It’s about trust, you trust Apple to update your iPhone because it is a private company,” Fung explained, adding that we cannot trust Chinese companies who would introduce malware into the 5G network if the CCP asked them to.

Fung also spoke in detail about China’s one country, two systems policy and the CCP’s broken promise: its decision to maintain control over Hong Kong’s government instead of allowing universal suffrage, which Fung asserts was promised in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. He described what he called an ongoing humanitarian crisis and a system of police brutality, lengthy prison sentences, sexual assault, and white terror––attacks on pro-democracy activists.

The situation in Tibet was discussed by Sherap Therchin, executive director of the Canada-Tibet Committee, who explained it has been 70 years since China illegally invaded Tibet, and the Western world seems to have forgotten about it. He described the CCP’s reflexive control strategy: how they have been feeding manufactured information about Tibet to target groups so consistently that the Western world now believes their narrative that Tibet was historically part of China.

Therchin continued to explain that in the Western world’s eyes, control over Tibet is now an internal issue––a problem for China to deal with without Western influence.

Finally, Dilmurat Mahmut, a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University’s Faculty of Education, talked about the Uyghur re-education camps in place since 2017. According to documents obtained through an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, an estimated 1 million Uyghur Muslims are detained in these camps, but Mahmut said these numbers could be as high as 3 million. He explained the history of the region of Xinjiang, originally East Turkistan, and the CCP’s labeling of all Turkic Muslims in the region as potential terrorists or pre-criminals.

Mahmut described the conditions in what the CCP calls vocational training centres, and explained that Uyghur children are being forcibly detained and sent to state-run orphanages where they are forbidden from learning the Uyghur language and, instead, only learn the Chinese culture—he called this cultural genocide. Mahmut finished his presentation with a warning from Roth on the dangers of not challenging Chinese human rights abuses and worldwide interference.


Photos by Brittany Clarke


Simply scientific: The plague

“The one from ancient times?” my friend asked across the table. “Why write about that?”

Because, old friend, the plague lives. It never left.

Only three weeks ago, a hunter from China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region north of Beijing caught and ate an infected rabbit, and also caught the bubonic plague.

A week later, in the same region but in unrelated circumstances, two people were diagnosed with the pneumonic plague.

The plague has a long and terrible history of killing people and rodents. It has killed 10s to 100s of millions of people over three pandemics. Estimates say that up to 50 million people may have died from the plague over a seven-year period nicknamed the Black Death in the 1300s.

So … should we be worried today?

Meh. Maybe.

An average of seven people a year are infected in the southwest of the United States according to the Center for Disease Control. And the Canadian government says that the first and only case up here was in 1939.

And apparently, it’s easily treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early on, according to the World Health Organization.

That said, the two main forms, bubonic and pneumonic, are pretty nasty.

You catch the former from an infected flea or louse or by eating raw, infected meat. Bacteria in infected fleas create a biofilm that blocks food intake. When the fleas bite you, they regurgitate your own blood back into you with plague bacteria. Over a few days, you develop swollen, pus-filled lymph nodes before you start vomiting blood and developing gangrenous extremities. People can survive this form without treatment, but lowkey, I don’t think that’s recommended.

You catch pneumonic plague like you catch a cold, through droplets in the air. It’s 100 per cent fatal if you don’t get treatment within the first day. As the saying goes, “If you’re coughing up blood … go to the doctor.”

So it’s probably wise to check beforehand if plague bacteria are present in rodent populations in a region your visiting.

Anyway, the plague has been in the news recently, which might have worried some. From 2010 to 2015, an average of 100 people a year around the world died from the plague, and that’s awful.

But it’s not Black-Death-horrible, which is something.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Briefs News

World in brief: China’s mass detention of Muslim, Koalas killed by fires, and Indigenous collaboration on Frozen II

On Nov. 24, leaked classified documents showed China’s strategic plan of mass detention for ethnic minorities. They were obtained and verified by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with CBC News and other media organizations around the world. Identified as the China Cables, the documents describe the large-scale incarceration and brainwashing of Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang province. Adrian Zenz, a leading researcher on the Uighur crisis, estimates that more than 1.8 million Uighurs are or have been imprisoned over the last three years. “What we are looking at in Xinjiang is probably the largest internment of an ethno-religious minority since the Holocaust,” said Zenz, in an interview with CBC

Record-breaking fires continue to devastate Australia’s East coast as yet another heatwave worsened the situation last week. Various media reported that more than 1 million hectares of New South Wales and Queensland have been ripped apart by the devastating bushfires which destroyed more than 300 homes. While bushfire season is not uncommon for the country due to dry weather, several scientists agree that this year is abnormally overwhelming, and for all types of lives. The chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, estimates that over 1,000 koalas weren’t able to flee the fires and lost their lives, reported the Daily Mail.

Disney is fostering Indigenous collaborations with Frozen II as it hit the theatre over the weekend. Critics over cultural appropriation from the first movie adopting Scandinavia’s Indigenous Sámi culture led the Hollywood magnate to work on the sequel with a team of Sámi experts from Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as reported by CBC. The group was constituted of Sámi artists, historians, elders and politicians. They were consulted on the historical aspect of the storyline, the costumes and the songs to ensure that their culture would be properly represented onscreen.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


China and the NBA: Lebron enters the fold

In light of the events leading to a frigid disconnect between the NBA and its connections with China, Lebron James was once again the one left to speak up for the players.

James publicly reprimanded the timing of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who on Oct. 4, tweeted “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The problem with Morey’s tweet is not that he was supporting freedom for a foreign country under a communist government, but rather that he did so while two teams, the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers, were in the thick of that very regime in China; where they were to play two exhibition games.

Ever since James spoke publicly about Morey’s terrible timing, he’s been under fire for being a supporter of censorship. People are saying his comments are financially motivated, as he doesn’t want to lose all the endorsement money that Nike makes him in China. Fox News paints him as “unamerican” in his position against Morey, who is simply speaking freely, and supporting freedom, as Americans do. HURRAH. This is so typical in more ways than one… Leave it to the USA to impose their constitution on countries halfway across the world, and to dumb down the issue at hand, using ideology as an excuse.

Let’s take a step back and look at this in a rational, practical way.

James doesn’t hate free speech – all of his actions say otherwise. The man founded and funded a public elementary school in his home town of Akron, Ohio, and promises free college tuition to every graduate. He is constantly a voice for the disenfranchised, a philanthropist to those in need, and is openly liberal. What James hates is loose-lipped executives sitting in their ivory towers far, far away, who stir the pot while he’s sitting in it. Despite the tweet only existing for several minutes before being deleted, it sparked a controversy in a country with a population of over 1.3 billion people.

The controversy caused outrage, and hostility. Lebron and his team, as well as the Nets, were simply there to play basketball, and grow the game on an international level. All of a sudden, they’re on the front lines of an international conflict and media storm, where they could have potentially been in political, or even physical danger. What if the Chinese government wouldn’t let them leave? What if Chinese loyalists became violent?

Now, thankfully, those things didn’t happen, but they very well could have. Instead, they experienced a different kind of backlash: The wrath of corporate China. The Chinese broadcast of the two games on their network, CCTV, was cancelled. Tickets became hard to come by.  All corporate logos were taken off the hardwood. Community events involving the players were cancelled. Chinese apparel brands suspended their relations with the NBA. The Chinese Basketball Association, run by Rockets legend Yao Ming, severed all ties with the Rockets. Chinese streaming service Tencent banned Houston from their service. The team’s official apparel is no longer available in China. China has basically censored the hell out of the NBA.

Like many NBA superstars, Lebron James has been visiting China in the offseason for over 10 years on behalf of Nike, who carries his signature shoe and apparel lines. Of course it benefits him financially, why shouldn’t it? Would you spend weeks in China doing promotion for free? I didn’t think so. I assure you the league doesn’t mind either, because it popularizes their sport in a massive market.

More important than money, James is the most impactful ambassador for the sport since Michael Jordan made the NBA an international phenomenon. He cares more about the state of the game than he does his bank account, which is doing fine, I promise. The complete destruction of all the inroads the NBA has built into China is more likely what doesn’t sit well with him. All that time spent globalizing the game, and instilling its values in parts of the world that need them, evaporated in a moment’s notice with a seven word tweet.

But wait, here’s the cherry on top: In an attempt to either limit the damage, or save face with China, the NBA has censored the game in their own way. Fans holding up “Free Tokyo” signs in Philadelphia and Washington have had their posters taken from them by stadium officials. Reporters have been silenced in asking questions about the controversy in Houston. Hypocrisy at its best, right? How is James the one being criticized for being an advocate of conciliatory speech, when the league is clearly guilty of that very thing?

This is why sports and politics should never intersect. Sports bring people together, politics have a tendency to be divisive. James wants Morey to let the game speak for itself, and so do I.


Graphic by Salomé Blain


Colour Commentary: The Rocky State of the NBA in China

Remember when the NBA’s biggest storylines during the off-season involved tampering, trade requests, and Lebron’s “Taco Tuesday” trademark denial? Now, America’s most progressive sports league faces its biggest challenge since the Donald Sterling scandals of 2014.

On Oct. 4, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted an image in support of the protests taking place in Hong Kong that read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” Morey deleted the tweet shortly after but had failed in avoiding conflict with China.

The NBA’s initial statement acknowledged the tweet as offensive to Chinese friends and fans, but ultimately created more confusion as it failed in representing a definitive stance. On Oct. 8, NBA commissioner Adam Silver cleared the air when he specified the NBA would not regulate what its employees and owners say, supporting Morey’s right to freedom of expression.

In response, China Central Television, CCTV, showed immense dissatisfaction, saying “remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.” In addition, the company suspended all NBA broadcasting. Rights holder of the NBA in China, Tencent, blacklisted Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets. Sponsors were forced to cut ties with the team and its players to avoid potential blowback.

The NBA-China rift is an ongoing process that is showing no signs of faltering. A single tweet derailed a Chinese partnership that generated millions in yearly revenue for the NBA, unequivocally one of its largest international markets.

The bottom line is prominent figures need to provide unsolicited content frequently to appease the public interests, often resulting in posts that are imprudent.  Morey’s tweet shows the volatility a post can possess and stresses the importance of taking precaution when sharing online in a society that encourages spontaneity, with consumers who are obsessed with immediate satisfaction.

This notion was emphasized in the backlash received by coach of the Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr, when he was asked about the topic. Kerr has been outspoken to the media on American political issues in the past but admitted he did not have enough knowledge to formulate an opinion on Chinese politics.

Kerr was criticized by fans and was called out by President Donald Trump in a hearing on Oct 9, who labelled Kerr a hypocrite that “was like a scared little boy”. The Warriors’ coach effectively showed self-awareness in wanting to think before he speaks, which is unfortunately an ostracized attitude in 2019.


Editorial: China’s censorship doesn’t have a place at Concordia

On March 26, Concordia University held a conference led by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS), where Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uighur Congress, spoke. Isa is an Uighur activist who often speaks at conferences highlighting the ongoing human rights violations Uighur Muslims in China face.

Kyle Matthews, Executive Director of MIGS, told The Concordian: “Before the event, we started to see reports in the media that showed [the] Chinese government and some Chinese students disrupting any events about human rights abuses involving the Uighur or the Tibetans. We were kind of concerned about that and thought our event would get cancelled.”

While the event wasn’t cancelled, a day before it took place, Matthews received an email from the Chinese consul general in Montreal. In the email, Matthews was asked for an urgent meeting to discuss the event and their point of view. Matthews ignored the email, but on the day of the event, he found out that the Chinese consul general was pressuring different people in Montreal to cancel the event.

Matthews decided to ignore the email, and the event still took place with two security officers present to ensure there were no disruptions. In an article by La Presse, the Chinese consul general admitted that he pressured Montreal to cancel the event, saying students shouldn’t be exposed to terrorism. “He made some very bizarre references to the Christchurch terrorism case in New Zealand,” said Matthews. “It didn’t make sense because our speaker wasn’t some member of the far right; he’s actually a Muslim Uighur minority from China.”

This idea of linking Uighur Muslims to terrorism isn’t new—in fact, China has claimed they are dealing with threats and violence from separatist Islamist groups in Xinjiang, but human rights groups argue differently. In 2009, riots in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, killed 200 people, most of whom were Han Chinese—numerous attacks have occurred since then, according to BBC News. Human rights groups argue that this violence erupted from China’s oppression of Uighur Muslims, and these violent events were used by the Chinese government to crack down on Uighur Muslims in February 2017, according to the same source.

Evidence highlights that more than 1 million Uighur Muslims in China are detained in what resembles a “massive internment camp,” according to BBC News. In these camps, detainees are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, renounce their Islamic faith, and swear loyalty to the Communist Party of China and President Xi Jinping, according to the same source.

At first, China ignored the camps’ existence—but in October 2018, Chinese officials legalized “education camps” with the goal of eradicating extremism, according to Vox. Instead of referring to these detainment centres for what they are, the Chinese government has called them “re-education” centres that are meant to fend off terrorism, according to BBC News. Millions of people have disappeared, and Uighur Muslims are under surveillance, according to Vox. Not only that, but officials say these “re-education” centres offer classes on topics such as Chinese history and culture, and have said that inmates are “happier” after their imprisonment, according to CNN. Yet, various camp survivors have said they were physically tortured for the purpose of brainwashing, were sleep deprived, isolated without food and water, and were subject to waterboarding, according to Vox.

It is difficult to know every detail of what Uighur Muslims are currently going through, as China’s lack of freedom of press hinders journalists’ ability to report freely. “What’s deeply troubling is that China is exporting its authoritarianism to Western countries,” said Matthews. “This is the third case of Chinese political interference in events happening at Canadian universities. One was at the University of Toronto, one was at McMaster, and now Concordia comes to number three.”

We at The Concordian believe this situation further highlights how urgent it is for us to discuss what is happening in Xinjiang. We’re proud of our university for offering its security services to ensure the conference took place. The ongoing violation of human rights for Uighur Muslims in China is an issue that must be continuously spoken about. Censorship has no place in Canada, or in Canadian universities—we at The Concordian hope to see this conversation continue and bring change.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


Pandaplomacy is a sign of good things to come

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Who are they? They’re Er Shun and Da Mao, and you’ve undoubtedly heard about them by now. The two giant pandas recently touched down in Canada to much fanfare and celebration courtesy of the Chinese government for five year stays at both the Calgary and Toronto zoos. How are they important to Canadian-Chinese relations?

The two are destined to attract hoards of visitors and paying customers — that’s why we forked out over $1 million to bring them here. China and Canada can mutually benefit from reciprocal ties of friendship. We have much to learn from each other culturally and much to gain materially, but care needs to be taken. A panda can be stubborn and must be respectfully, yet firmly, worked with.

Take their diet: an unrelenting, monotonous supply of bamboo. This is the perfect metaphor for the insatiable Chinese economic need for natural resources and raw materials, and one we’ve done well to embrace. Ever since the financial crisis, Canada has increasingly cozied up to Beijing as national priorities have shifted from a mix of humanitarian concern and business ambition to pure economic overdrive. Bamboo, like the oil and other commodities we export to China, suits the pandas just fine. But just as zookeepers need to know when to say enough, so does the Canadian government need to critically evaluate just how far they’re willing to feed the Chinese, at what expense (remember Nexxen?) and how this influence can be used for further dealing with China on touchy subjects like human rights and democracy.

The handling of the cute mammalian duo also shows what the government shouldn’t do. Pandas are exotic star attractions and for good reason, but the zoos will never ignore their other charges for their sake. In fact, the regulars will continue to receive priority.

So maybe Harper shouldn’t have scheduled the pandas’ arrival and reception the same day the Nishiyuu walkers wound down their epic trek from James Bay, Que., to the nation’s capital to bring attention to the plight of indigenous peoples. The pandas may have flown 12,000 kilometres in 15 hours to come here (stocked with choice bamboo and veterinarians on standby) but the Nishiyuu walked 15,000 kilometres on their own two feet. For 68 days straight.

This is the first time in almost 25 years that we have pandas, an apt parallel to the once frosty relations between China and Canada that have thawed and, in some respects, blossomed. Yet just as Er Shun and Da Mao aren’t laurels to be rested on nor to be treated lightly, the time they’re on loan to us is the window we have for determining our future relationship with China. One of the aims of the zookeepers is to entice the duo into the panda’s notoriously difficult act of breeding. Yes, we have them for 10 years, but this means very little if we can’t get them to produce dividends: in their case cuddly pups, in China’s case strong and serious bonds between equals. In both cases an active and energetic approach is critical.

Panda diplomacy was once a bestowal of favour by Chinese dynasties to preferred foreign states on the periphery. While times have changed and China now finds itself amongst many equals, the act is undoubtedly one of honour. The Calgary and Toronto zoos have pulled off a coup by securing the pandas. By pursuing with acumen our current opportunities with China, Canada as a country should be able to do the same.


World music review: Asia

7he Myriads (Russia): If you think space disco is a kind of theme party thrown by Russian cosmonauts, then you’re missing out on quite possibly one of the most enjoyable new hybrid genres, and the dual-continental band positioned squarely at its forefront. 7he Myriads, formed by Vitalic Teterin and Alexey Krjuk in 2007, are more than just an electronic group. Adding Yunusov Ilgiz to the band, the Ekaterinburg (Asia) natives draw upon disco, funk, deep house, rock and electro, while combining live instrumentation with electronic staples like the ever-trusty laptop and MIDI keyboard. Now based in St. Petersburg (Europe), the intergalactic rock threesome released their debut album ∞ in 2010 and an EP, Running Man, soon after. Although they haven’t released another album since, they’re constantly updating their SoundCloud online where you can stream almost 30 tracks for free.

The Raghu Dixit Project (India): Combining traditional Indian vocal styles and instrumentation with unconventional musical styles including funky basslines, reggae rhythms and crisp, clean electric guitar, the Project is more than just a name—it’s an “open-house” for musicians and artists to come together and express their craft, regardless of genre, style or nationality. While the majority of his music is inspired by Shishunala Sharif, a saint from Karnataka, India famous for his poetry, Raghupathy Dixit’s lyrics, which are mostly in his native tongue, speak to the masses and deal with everyday experiences and emotions. The self-taught composer and musician believes Indian folk music is not a genre, but a state of mind. “We’re all untrained musicians,” said Dixit on his website, “and singing a song, because it’s innate, is a basic instinct.” The RDP’s debut self-titled album, available to stream online, includes eight full-length tracks that were composed over the past 12 years. The quintet that currently makes up the Project also has a new album in the works.

Morphy (Singapore): This collective, represented by vocalist and guitarist Lilia Yip and supported by Eugene Wong on synth and bass, lead guitarist Alexius Cai and Chua Yingtze on percussion, is not for those who enjoy mainstream folk music. The ambient, electronic, folk-pop band melds genres and risks melding your mind with their psychedelic ambient potpourri of sound. Stepping beyond electronica, the band uses traditional instruments from all areas of the world, including the wooden folk flute, and the African thumb piano, also known as the mbira. Their seemingly rule-free composition stems from their open approach to their music, inviting musicians from all corners of the globe to contribute to their sound. Their first album Pink Ashes (2004) set the pace for what was to come in their 2010 release Just Like Breathing, which featured U.K. guitarist Timothy Lloyd. Their presence in the scene, however, is reminiscent of their music—rather ambient—so if you want to hear them, you’re going to have to do some digging.

Kabul Dreams (Afghanistan): Here in the Western world, the music market is oversaturated with rock bands trying to make it big. Afghanistan’s first rock ‘n’ roll band, Kabul Dreams, is only three years old. They have become somewhat of a novelty on a global scale, purely due to the fact that they’re the first ever in their country, but don’t let that stop you from giving them a listen. While their sound ranges from generic to melodic, they do have talent and a whole lot of gusto. As the self-proclaimed voice of Kabul youth, their ciphers deal with post-Taliban messages of peace, unity and love. Groovy. Although the trio lived outside Afghanistan during Taliban rule—singer Sulyman Qardash in neighbouring Uzbekistan, bass guitarist Siddique Ahmed in Pakistan, and drummer Mujtaba Habibi in Iran—they moved back to Afghanistan once the Taliban was removed from power. What’s interesting about these three Afghan boys is that they come from different areas of the country, so they all speak a different native language. Instead of trying to work with that, they decided to sing in English.

Niraj Chag (England via India): This British musician of Indian descent has spent his life in London. His family’s strong ties to their heritage and homeland inspired him to create what BBC Radio 1 host DJ Nihal calls “some of the most beautiful British-Asian music ever created.” Chag composes in multiple languages, including six different languages on his debut album Along the Dusty Road (2006), after which he was awarded the “Best Underground Act” award at the U.K. Asian Music Awards. His next release, The Lost Souls in 2009, drove home this fusion artist’s talent, blending major South Asian styles with Hindi and by combining over 50 vocal layers on one track alone. The songs themselves are relaxed; it’s the type of music you can picture yourself listening to while smoking fragrant Mu‘assel from an ornate hookah in some tucked-away lounge amongst the crowded streets of New Delhi.

Eli Walks (Japan): Producer extraordinaire Jeff Lufkin has long had his hands in Japan’s thriving popular music scene—it’s a family affair. Both of his sisters are established musicians; Olivia is a fairly successful J-pop songstress, while Caroline is a vocalist for indie rock’s Mice Parade. Lufkin had an early affinity for heavy metal, but after his sisters introduced him to electronica à la Kraftwerk and Massive Attack, he searched for a method that would allow him to meld the two, and found it in club music. Lufkin worked as a producer, guitarist and composer in Japan, but moved to L.A. and birthed the moniker Eli Walks, as he studied sound design, engineering, and mastered Ableton Live at the California Institute of the Arts. His 2012 debut, Parallel, is delicate yet abrasive, overlapping atmospheric dance music. This is music to fill your ears; it works equally as an isolation soundtrack/solo travel companion or setting for a chill, alternative dance floor. He will make his Fuji Rock Festival debut this summer alongside the likes of Radiohead and the Stone Roses.

BoA (South Korea): K-pop girl groups have steadily grown in popularity, breaking into Western and Japanese music markets on the heels of BoA (Beat of Angel), or Kwon Boa, the reigning “Queen of Korean Pop Music.” BoA’s dance electropop first hooked South Korea in 2000 after she caught agents’ eyes while accompanying her older brother to a talent search. In 2002, she became the first South Korean musician to break Japan since the World War II entertainment trade embargo, opening the doors for girl groups like the Wonder Girls and 2NE1. BoA secured a fan base in the U.S. with the 2009 release of her self-titled English debut album and after spending much of 2010 touring the states and promoting her single “Eat You Up.” The pop starlet is it still maintaining her presence in Japan and South Korea, but is also set to make her Hollywood debut in the dance flick COBU 3D, so brace yourself for a K-pop invasion.

Modern Dog (Thailand): As the victors of the Coke Music Contest in 1992, college mates Modern Dog were instantly thrust into a world of bright lights and flashing cameras to sell over 500,000 copies of their debut album. Their introduction to the Thai music market may seem near effortless, but their sound was over a century in the making. For years, Thailand borrowed music from its neighbours India and China, resting at a crossroads of traditional Greek and Roman trade routes. But Thailand’s popular music format, known as “string,” wasn’t developed without the influence of American R&B, shipped overseas courtesy of American and Australian soldiers serving in Vietnam. Modern Dog broke through the sticky sweet boundaries characteristic of string and brought heavier, American influenced experimental rock featuring English and Thai lyrics. With That Song (2004), produced by Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Belle and Sebastian), and a 2006 U.S. tour, they tried to break into the Western world, but failed to gain much steam. Still hailed as the leader of Thailand’s indie rock music scene, Modern Dog paved the way for alternative rock’s presence in popular Thai music and have sold over two million albums to date.

Hedgehog (China): Despite China’s well-documented, swelling population, it has never been considered a major producer or consumer of popular music. Due to state restrictions, cantopop and mandopop commercialized love ballads pollute the radio waves, for an alternative hasn’t yet broken into the mainstream. Inspired by Western bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit, a black/thrash metal scene developed among youth in the ‘90s, and heavy rock music has now grown in popularity in Beijing and Shanghai. Beijing’s Hedgehog was born out of those same punk/grunge roots, and they developed a fan base playing shows underground in 2005. Fans now flock to their shows to see Atom, the petite yet aggressive female percussionist, peeking through a mop of hair, behind a towering drum kit. The guitarist, Zo, sings most lyrics in Mandarin and English, and they recently recruited a new bassist, Xiao Nan, for their 2011 U.S. tour with Californian synth pop collective Xiu Xiu. Hedgehog recorded their upcoming 2012 release, Sun Fun Gun, in New York with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s John Grew and Russell Simins, and the album’s first single is now available for free download on Bandcamp.

Hiromi Uehara (Japan): Hiromi Uehara is known as one of the world’s most talented, game-changing musicians for her ability to bring raw, emotional rock to the piano—a relatively peaceful instrument. She began playing the piano at six years old, joined the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at 14, and has now broken into the more mainstream alternative Western market. Hiromi first worked as a jingle writer in Japan, but travelled to the United States to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music to study jazz piano. Since the release of her debut album, Another Mind (2003), she has travelled the world, developing a reputation for her inventive, high-energy fusion of classical and hard rocking jazz. With the Hiromi Trio Project, she will bring her latest release, Voice (2011), to this summer’s Fuji Rock Festival and both Montreal’s and Toronto’s jazz festivals.

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