On May 15, Uighur Online, the main online forum serving to bridge the huge communication gap between China's Muslim population, other minority ethnic groups, and Han Chinese, was shut down.
All that remains now of Uighur Online, courtesy of archive.org
As is the norm in China, no reason is given for website closures, just an order. All that can now be found at the site or its sister site Uighur Biz are instructions on how to donate to Chinese Red Cross, and this message:
Hello everyone! It is with extremely heavy hearts that we hereby notify you that due to those reasons that everyone knows, Uighur Online has been closed.
Thank you everyone for your constant support, care and help for Uighur Online, and even more thanks to the members of the management team, the BBS webmasters, the editors, columnists, experts and the academics who have put so much into Uighur Online. In the two short years that Uighur Online has been around and with the efforts of a multi-ethnic management team, the site receives on average around one million pageviews per day, with tens of thousands of registered users. With all the people we've come to know and friends we've made from many different ethnic groups, our understanding of each other has both broadened and deepened. Uighur Online provided grassroots communication channels between different ethnic groups, allowing for conversations and discussions which, we firmly believe, were quite meaningful.
E-mail contacts for written contributions to the site: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
May 15, 2008
The well-known Uighur Biz blogger on Sina.com adds that the “Harmonization Department” which “cares for” these things was responsible for the closure; one reader there speculates on the reasons for Uighur Online's closure writes:
From Baidu to Bullog to small local BBS forums, the response has been strong, but it too is being silenced. On May 19 this post already had six pages of comments; on May 20 it is somehow now down to just four pages.
What surprises many Uighur Online users is that the website was even properly licensed, the excuse most often used by authorities to shut blogs and BBS websites down. Indeed, the ‘Crowd of Spectators Out of Control’ blogger, who writes about Xinjiang culture, mentions in a post late last month a conversation s/he had with the Uighur Online webmasters, retelling the absurdities the staff there went through recently in trying to report one UO user for inflaming racial hatred within the forums, and being kicked around like a football from police department to police department in Beijing and then back to the local internet supervision office, with none of them willing to address the situation.
Not to be mistaken as a sign of authorities’ unwillingness to punish people for alleged hate speech. Uighur Online's attraction was in that it tolerated occasionally offensive and hateful opinions as valid parts of discussion; its closure, aside from being illegal, now only demonstrates the short-sightedness of those responsible. As with any influential blog or BBS forum in China, Uighur Online's administrators were already in theory forced to censor any language which might alarm authorities. Now, all talks are off.
Well-known novelist Yao Xinyong, who writes on ethnic themes, in an essay published last fall, reprinted now on Gsoms Dong‘s Sohu blog, describes Uighur Online as such:
“On May 15, Uighur Online, the main online forum serving to bridge the huge communication gap between China’s Muslim population, other minority ethnic groups, and Han Chinese, was shut down. “
This sentence implies that Uighurs are the only Muslim minority ethnic group, which, of course, is not true.
Sonagi: Funny, I didn’t read it that way at all.
It is an interesting story, BTW. Were comments posted in Chinese only or other languages, too, like Uighur or Kazahk?
Good question, Sonagi. Can anybody confirm this? From what I read in preparation for this post, it definitely appears to have supported other languages.
Here’s more on the founder and CEO of the website, who sounds like a really amazing guy. I just got a response today from the contact e-mail address provided on the site, the person who responded sounds optimistic that the site will be able to resume operation shortly.
The topic like this is truely pointless… how can you conclude by the temporalily closure of a website, thousands of people just suddenly shut up? man, we are living in 21st century. People in china are communicating with each other by qq, msn, mobile phone, skype,bloger besides tradisonal way of talking. Forum is only one of them and this website is one of countless in china. And some people claimed as you quote:
“Uighur Online’s closure stands to be a major watershed; the shutting down of channels that stood for communication and discussion just means that all the more people now will choose to cut themselves off, refuse to communicate, or even choose underground activities. People inland have lost the window which led straight to understanding what Uyghur people are thinking, and now will have no choice but to turn to research papers from those academics in the ivory towers to better understand the public sentiment there.”
This is nothing but freak.
Following this kind of logic, I’d like to recommend another piece of news several days ago which was report by 凤凰网（http://news.ifeng.com/）. It was reported the closure a populare publication named 旅游新报 (tourist guide). Is this may become a sign of ongoing chinese anti-tourism policy which chinese government soon would apply or another great evidence that people in chinese have no freedom of press to some people?
The answer is simply not. The newspaper was closed because they reported the chinese earthquake by some bikini girls. I’m not quite sure whether people from different culture may be glad to see hot girls right next to a dying child lie in the ruin of his former home. This was complained by their readers as well as mostly of chinese people.
They support this kind of closure too.
Hopefully we will see the misunderstanding from this piece of news.
Not long ago we saw daily TV pictures of mountain-like fires raging across Greece’s finest forests, threatening the lives of many (non-Muslim) people. Before that we saw here in Morocco fellow (Muslim) Moroccans bewailing the death of their loved ones who died in the Earthquakein the Al Hoceima region in the north of the country. Disaster does not strike the people of just one faith. It’s the same pains, the same feelings, but attitudes sometimes vary. I had once heard on the radio the story of a girl from Rwanda who had lost all her family in the genocide. I sympathized with her (through my ears), but that wasn’t as much as I felt when I saw with my own eyes on Moroccan TV a Moroccan man lying in hospital bed and thanking God, he who had lost 16 members of his family in the Al Hoceima earthquake. What would I then say of my own hardships compared to the lot of such a poor man? How could I dare to say that what happened to that man was because of his sins? Would I have the same amount of patience were I to undergo a similar hardship? I experienced the death of (only) my grand-mother nine years ago and then the death of (only) my father a little more than three months ago and felt how painful it was; what about losing all one’s family at once, overnight?
Moralization is best when it comes out like a gentle breeze from within one’s soul, rather than when inflicted by a safe-and-sound preacher.
Read more at
People like JK et al love stirring controversy. Well that’s what get the debate going right?
People in China are NOT blind nor deaf, they always find ways to go around websites that are NOT available.
I don’t know this website before and I’m sure most of people around are just ignorant like me. Websites got mentioned massively by media and bloggers AFTER shutdown. Why didn’t they promote these websites BEFORE? Do they really care about what people say on the website or rather than the shuttingdown itself?
HC: The reason they get publicity afterward is that beforehand it may have been an amazing website, but the shut down is what causes one of the biggest effects. The shutting down of this website is a big deal.
Your logic is faulty. No government has an anti-tourism policy. Some governments have isolationist policies, but that’s another thing.
But many countries have censorship, especially dictatorships (such as, let’s say, China). They try to control the flow of information and ideas, and I even think most Chinese people support that.
So, yes, even the temporary closure could be a wake up call on the webmasters to censor more or face permanent closure.