Tuesday, 1 September 2009

another case of "we don't know how lucky we are"

i've just finished watching the two documentaries broadcast on maori tv, the first about uighur activist rebiya kadeer, and the second a chinese government documentary broadcast in response.

i was moved by the first if a little disappointment. the latter stems from the fact that i would have liked to have been provided with more history of the uighurs and their current situation. but it was, after all, more a documentary about one woman and her family, with contextual bits thrown in. and i can imagine that it is extremely difficult to get any detailed information out of china - ms kadeer herself spoke about video tapes being destroyed as she left the country.

nonetheless, it was an incredible story of someone with a lot of determination, resilience and courage. the price of freedom for her has been and continues to be extremely high. i can't imagine what it would be like to have four children in a jail where there is no independent prisons investigation authority, closed media and little chance of appeal against abuses of basic human rights.

also telling was the fact that at least one of her children was not entirely supportive of her stance. that must be even more difficult situation, with the daughter more concerned about her siblings than the overall struggle. it's an entirely understandable position. sadder was her desire to just get on her with her life, which she expressed early on in the documentary. obviously she hasn't chosen to be part of the movement her mother belongs to, and again, i can understand her desire to put it all aside. being the child of an activist is no fun thing, especially when the consequences of that activism can be so devastating for other family members.

it's hard to see where the struggle for self-determination will go for the uighur people. the central chinese government, like it's indian counterpart, can not allow one region any kind of independence without seeing the whole country break up into many parts. after all, if one region is successful in gaining independence, then other parts of the country will want the same.

layered into all of this are the global politics. while america was keen to have china as an ally during the initial phase of the war on terror, strong economic growth has lead to china becoming a threat. hence the policy of developing strong alliances with countries bordering china. having china becoming more unstable or even splitting up would see a greater reduction in any percieved threat. so seeing a turn-aound from george w bush in recognising ms kadeer was not entirely heartening.

the counter documentary produced by the chinese government was pretty disturbing as well. pretty graphic in the depiction of violence, it definitely made a point. there is absolutely no way to defend the senseless violence against unarmed people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

it's a pretty ugly situation all around. on the one hand, we have a government that commits gross abuses of human rights and will go to any lengths to preserve national unity and stability. in such an environment, there are very few options when it comes to the struggle for self-determination.

well, i'm really glad that maori tv didn't cave in to pressure and screened the documentary. if nothing else, i do feel better informed about the situation, and it's great to have a voice from the uighur people giving us their perspective on the situation.

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