Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Persecution of Uighur Muslims in China and the silence of Muslim Countries

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Aditi Mohta

Article Title

Persecution of Uighur Muslims in China and the silence of Muslim Countries

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Global Views 360

Publication Date

July 22, 2020

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Xi Jinping, the Chinese President with the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei | Source: Official website of Ali Khamenei, Supreme leader of Iran via Wikimedia

Uighur are natives of  Xinjiang province of China who are Muslims and regard themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations. Xinjiang province has been under the control of China since it was annexed in 1949 and many Uighurs still identify their homeland by its previous name, East Turkestan. There are around 11 million Uighurs in Xinjiang and China claims that Uighurs hold extremist views that are a threat to national security.

In 2017, the Xinjiang government passed a law prohibiting men from growing long beards and women from wearing veils and dozens of mosques were also demolished.

As per the report of UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Descrimination, the Chinese government has detained at least one million Uighurs in the detention camps in Xinjiang, China. After denying the existence of the camps for a long time, when the photos of the camps emerged, the Chinese government called them “re-education centres'' for Uighurs though the former detainees said they were detained, interrogated and beaten because of their religion, and not “re-educated.”

In July 2019 to the U.N. Human Right Council, 22 countries, mainly European countries, responded to “disturbing reports of large scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs” and condemned the Chinese leadership.

Four days later, 37 countries, defended China’s “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights” by protecting the country from “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.” The list of the 37 countries also included Muslim-majority countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Qatar etc.

At the end of October 2019, 23 countries including France, the United Kingdom, United States denounced the repression of the Uighurs at the UN Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs. Nevertheless, Beijing won the support of 54 countries, who praised the Communist Party’s management of Xinjiang.

In February 2019, Saudi Arabia showed their “respect” for Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader before they signed major commercial contracts with China. Egypt wants Beijing to finance its infrastructure and hence allowed the Chinese police to interrogate Uighur exiles on its soil in 2017. Pakistan, who has talked about the mistreatment of Rohingyas, has been silent on Uighurs since the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is going on in the country.

Even Iran, who issues occasional criticism wants support from China and hence keeps the criticism coded. “There is a lot of sympathy for the Uighurs in Turkey, but the reality is that Erdogan needs China as an ally for economic reasons and to counteract the West’s diplomatic pressure on issues like Syria,” said Rémi Castets, a political scientist.

In 2017, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation responded very differently to the Rohingya Crisis (Myanmar’s military crackdown on the country’s Rohingyas), where countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey defended the rights of the Muslim minority group in Myanmar and actively condemned the treatment of Rohingyas in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  

The question here arises is that contrary to the sentiments of their citizens, why do Muslim states stay silent over China’s abuse of the Uighurs?

Sophie Richardson, the director of China at Human Rights Watch, has a short and simple answer — there is less solidarity for Uighur than Rohingyas or Palestinians because China has managed to win these countries’ support due to its economic might.

Only time will tell how long these countries will continue to give preference to the economic interests over the anti-China sentiments of the citizens.

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January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

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