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Cablegate: Guangzhou's Minorities: Uighurs and Others in a Sea of Han

VZCZCXRO5021
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHGZ #0498/01 2300910
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180910Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0855
INFO RUEHGZ/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE 0228
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0664
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0166
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0230
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0165
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0176
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0219
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0215
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC 0023

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 000498

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, INR/EAP, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB SOCI KJUS CH
SUBJECT: Guangzhou's Minorities: Uighurs and Others in a Sea of Han

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Linguistic, cultural and religious differences
often lead to "major communication difficulties" between Guangzhou
officials and minority groups. The municipal government has
mandated sensitivity training for police and other officials who
deal frequently with minorities. Provincial Party Secretary Wang
Yang warned foreign reporter of "problems" if China fails to adjust
policies towards minorities. Academic experts on minority issues
term the government's treatment of Uighurs in Guangzhou "lenient,"
and say that there is some public resentment of this. Local media
has apparently received orders to treat issues of race and ethnicity
with care. When African immigrants protested in front of a
Guangzhou police station last month, local papers merely referred to
the incident as a "foreigners' gathering." END SUMMARY

Lost in Translation
-------------------

2. (SBU) When local officials arrived at the site of the June 26
Shaoguan factory clash between Han and Uighur workers, their
attempts to control and diffuse the situation were hindered by a
lack of any Uighur interpreters, according to Guangzhou Academy of
Social Sciences (GZASS) researcher Liu Zhaohua. Liu said that
different languages, customs and religious practices cause "major
communication difficulties" between Guangzhou's Uighur and Han
populations at the best of times, and remain a potential source of
friction and misunderstanding. Though the estimated 500-2000
Uighurs in Guangzhou is a far smaller community than those in other
Chinese cities, it does tend to cluster together and avoid mingling
with other ethnic groups, said Liu.

3. (SBU) Local government has taken steps to avoid cross-cultural
misunderstandings and to reduce the potential for violent incidents.
Following the Shaoguan clash and Urumqi riots, the Guangzhou
Government ordered research into the state of the local Uighur
community, according to both Liu and her GZASS colleague, Yao Yi.
Simultaneously, the Religious Affairs Bureau began providing to the
police and other officials who deal frequently with the public
updated training on customs and taboos of minority groups, said the
scholars.

4. (SBU) Guangdong Party Secretary and Politburo Member Wang Yang
told foreign reporters July 30 that China's policies for dealing
with minority groups would "definitely need adjustments," which, if
not made promptly, would lead to "problems," according to Reuters.
Wang characterized the Shaoguan incident as "a conflict between
workers that should be regarded as a criminal act," a view that was
echoed by the GZASS academics, who said that minority matters in
south China were generally a subset of the larger migrant labor
issue.

Huizhou Taking a Breather
-------------------------

5. (SBU) Several companies in Huizhou, Guangdong Province, recently
told the South China Morning Post that they would not recruit Uighur
laborers this year due to "cultural differences," an exceptionally
high turnover rate and high administrative costs resulting from the
need to supply interpreters and halal food. While the GZASS experts
said Pearl River Delta factories recruit workers from minority
groups, they denied these programs represented a formal government
policy. (Note: According to a late July edition of Phoenix Weekly,
governments in southern Xinjiang indeed have a policy of exporting
surplus labor to China's coastal areas. Following the unrest in
Urumqi, these governments reaffirmed that the policy would remain
unchanged, according to the report. End note.)

6. (SBU) The GZASS researchers said that economics, not ethnicity,
is the driving force behind the decision whether to hire minority
groups, as well as the reason Uighur numbers in Guangzhou are
expected to decline in the future. Since 2000, the total number of
Uighurs has decreased as the city's economy has developed more
high-technology industries, according to Liu, who added that Uighurs
have tended to follow demand for unskilled labor to other parts of
the Pearl River Delta.

A "Lenient" Approach to Uighurs
-------------------------------

7. (SBU) The Guangzhou Government has been "lenient" towards Uighurs
with regard to the enforcement of laws and municipal regulations,

GUANGZHOU 00000498 002.2 OF 002


according to Yao, who said that police tend to overlook small
infringements by Uighurs. (Note: Uighur and other minority street
vendors, nearly all of whom are unlicensed, operate relatively
openly in Guangzhou. End note.) Though she assessed that the
public generally supported preferential treatment for minorities to
make up for fewer opportunities in less-developed parts of the
country, Liu conceded that some Han Chinese complain about the
government's favorable medical care, financial support and
prioritized education and promotion opportunities provided to ethnic
minorities.

Parsing Ethnicity: The "Foreigners' Gathering"
------------------ ---------------------------

8. (U) Media accounts of a mid-July incident in which members of
Guangzhou's African community surrounded a police station following
the serious injury of two Africans fleeing from a police document
check conspicuously avoided making reference to the ethnicity of the
participants. Instead, the event, which took place soon after the
Urumqi riots, was quickly termed a "foreigners' gathering" by local
media.

9. (SBU) Similarly, an August 11 press report did not indicate the
African ethnicity of a "foreign" woman who had been arrested for
smuggling illegal drugs into Shenzhen from Kuala Lumpur. (Comment:
Though the paper did not mention the woman was African, a cartoon
next to the report showed a woman of African ethnicity awkwardly
attempting to smuggle items.)

GOLDBECK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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