Archive for the ‘Social Issues’ Category


In July, 20 Muslim Uyghurs escaped China. Citing threats of torture, they hoped to attain asylum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Beijing deemed them “criminals.”

On Monday, Cambodian officials sent the Uyghurs home. China incentivized this arrangement with 1.2 billion dollars of aid and loans. This figure seems especially large when considering China assistance to Cambodia over the last 18 years totals almost 9.5 million dollars.

This decision concerns foreign leaders. It violates international refugee laws. The refugees entered Cambodia legally with visas. Rebiya Kadeer, a significant Uyghur leader, added, “Governments of countries neighboring China are reluctant to take any action that would displease Chinese authorities, leaving Uyghurs nowhere to flee.” UN refugee experts are currently exploring potential solutions.

Discontent with Chinese governmental control is intensifying, particularly in Xinjiang. Uyghur riots this past summer and a subsequent communication breakdown represent an extreme, but social unrest is generally increasing throughout China. A rise in crime has accompanied their massive economic expansion. In the first ten months of 2009, China saw a 15% climb in crime compared to last year, or four million cases. While many citizens choose to challenge governmental rule, a growing population hopes to flee their country.


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Internet usage in China is complicated. Asia already houses the largest Internet network in the world. Amidst exponential growth, access remains monitored. The Chinese Government maintains that restrictions over their country’s online content are necessary. If it grows unchecked, the Internet will hinder China’s efficiency and success.

(Here is an excellent account with diagrams of regional web usage)

Beyond the issues surrounding China’s Cyber Warefare, simply accessing the World Wide Web remains tough in certain regions. Xinjiang stands out as a radical example. Early last July, Uyghur riots in Ürümqi, Xinjiang led to a few hundred deaths, nine executions as well as a revamping of the region’s communication. Two years ago, I did not encounter any restrictions on e-mail or other messaging networks like Facebook during my travels throughout Xinjiang. Connections were scarce is more rural regions, but I could communicate easily once online. By mid-July 2009, these circumstances changed quite a bit. These days, a breakdown of available contact serves as a reminder for current Xinjiang residents to respect authority. While Internet connections allegedly remain largely unaffected, website availability continues to decreased. These two up-to-date accounts (Report #1, Report #2) depict current constraints.

Throughout China’s other regions, web searches on topics sensitive to authorities produce uninformative results and any degree of lewd content does not survive long. Although they admit corruption is a significant problem, preserving a positive government image is vital to their power. In the latter case, morals play a role. China’s Government recently offered monetary rewards for tips on location of servers running pornography websites. Response rates were astounding.

These examples are, however, extreme. There are very basic problems. A consistent frustration for some foreigners seems to be simply obtaining an Internet connection in their residence. Here is some advice for anyone struggling with this problem and wants to obtain Internet access in China outside of cafes and hotels.

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Photographer Chen Haiwen and a group of colleagues spent a year journey to virtually every region of China. They hoped to paint, or rather “sketch” a picture of minority life. Their product, “Harmonious China: A Sketch of China’s 56 Ethnicities,” contains just a few of the 5.7 million images they captured on camera. It covers all 56 government-recognized Chinese ethnic minorities.

Click here to see an example for each minority group:

English Website


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China’s Government took a step to simultaneously fight AIDS and liberalize their culture’s attitude towards homosexuality. On World AIDS day, they opened a gay bar.

This serves a few purposes. First and foremost, it is a means to conduct HIV/AIDS tests. Across the country, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation HIV program offers financial returns to those conducting the blood tests as well as participants. This first government-funded gay bar in Dali, Yunnan may receive similar support, and it will certainly distribute HIV prevention literature. Homosexual relations stand among the government’s alleged primary causes for the expansion of HIV

Blood collection is another necessary goal of this HIV prevention agenda. Critics deem the Gates program fundamentally flawed with narrow-minded structure. Testers are sometimes poorly trained to help an infected patient, and individuals can get paid for blood work multiple times. It remains difficult to spread HIV knowledge and promote testing. China increasingly aggressive approach to fighting HIV/AIDS remains hindered by a vast landscape. Qi Xiaoqiu, director of China’s Department of Disease Control, commented,

“Exact figures are difficult to arrive at because government at local levels are very reticent to report on actual cases, a situation compounded by individuals who are reluctant to come forward because of discrimination.”

Although China’s minister of health reports their HIV/AIDS population to be approximately 740,000, this number is commonly disputed. In 2007, China saw a 45% increase in HIV/AIDS and a 24% rise in syphilis cases. One day prior to World AIDS day, Chinese President Hu Jintao passionately stated, “China still faces a severe AIDS problem and we should mobilize the forces of all social sectors to tackle the problem persistently.”

Opening this gay bar also seems like an initial attempt to make right by a group who, until 2001, the Chinese Government deemed mentally ill. The obscene cost of dealing with a rapidly growing AIDS population likely drives the government’s desire for change, but this gay bar is an especially creative endeavor. Unfortunately, China’s culture need time to evolve. Gay men remain nervous to openly admit their sexual preferences. Intense media coverage of the bar only contributed the anxiety of Dali’s large homosexual population. Consequently, this Dali Government-financed bar has failed to attract customers.

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