Communal riots hushed up
Despite China’s media blackout, reports of communal violence in China’s Henan province managed to get out. The death toll is unknown, but was serious enough for the Chinese government to impose martial law in the affected areas.
While the Han Chinese dominate the economy, their economic and social advancement has often been at the expense of local minorities. Combined with Beijing’s deliberate policy of Hanification, whereby migration is used to solidify the Han majority, the internal tensions within China are a Pandora’s box. That is why China is so keen on controlling news and clamping down so hard on these riots. Instead of trying to achieve balance between the various ethnic groups, China’s busy imposing its Han majority to expense of its minorities. It is not a co-incidence that many of these minorities reside in provinces that are amongst the poorest in China. The country is a vast one and controlling it is not an easy task, especially for a central Government that has weak powers over the provinces. [Simon World]
Imposing news blackouts is second nature for authoritarian regimes, but does it really help contain the spread of communal violence? If the blackout is total, it certainly helps isolate and localise the violence to a particular region and allows the government to restore order quickly. But total blackouts are impossible to achieve in practice, and a little information, like a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Communal violence all too often spreads on the back of mischievous rumours that exploit the unavailability of complete information.
China may have bought itself some time by hushing up this story (amply helped by a photo-finish American election), but it cannot forever continue to buy internal security and order in this manner.