There was a group of protesters from Falun Gong meditating under banners proclaiming “Falun Dafa is good” opposite of the Chinese consulate (surreally ) outside of a Strike XX bowling alley.
They were across the street from the consulate but a sense of tight security pervaded the embassy, security guards put my bags through a metal detector, and I got in a mild amount of trouble for talking on my cellphone and taking pictures, both of which are forbidden. Is this another symptom of China’s rather paranoid state apparatus or just normal embassy behavior? I’m guessing its probably the second, though a visa and passport office seems pretty benign, but perhaps if even on a 25 degree January day protesters are on the other end of the street are accusing the CCP of grievous human rights abuses, the forever-sensitive-to-criticism CCP is doing all this for a reason.
I waited thirty minutes next to this chatty guy to my right, he line jumped- somehow and gave me his waiting number- 10 minutes before the embassy closed for lunch. Wherever he is out there, thanks. This also allowed me to give my earlier number to the guy after me. I’ve never dropped off the visa myself, always using a service and they seemed amused that I had made double copies of everything (I was nervous: things go missing in my backpack pretty regularly) –
How to explain the consulate- a bit grungy, feels like a waiting room for a hospital, plastic bench chairs all facing forward and a crowd of blank faced people clutching their paperwork.
I took the Go Bus in from Boston yesterday and am crashing on friends couches around Bedford Stuveyesant, which has a higher concentration of Fried chicken- ATM combos per block than I have ever seen before.
Some city things: the Times square Elmo and Cookie Monster suit wearing people, chatting in Spanish with their head pieces balanced on top of their heads. A subway car full of people staring at different points of Nothing. So many fast-walking-violently-stylish people, and a delicious meal and Woorijip a great Korean buffet where you pay by the pound.
As I’m on the road, it wasn’t practical to bring my whole stack of books with me so I settled for the densest: a collection of academic work on Xinjiang edited by Fredrick Starr. I think my favorite chapter so far is the one on Islam in Xinjiang, which starts with an anecdote about the fragrant concubine (Chinese: rongfei), who was taken from Kashgar as a concubine by the Qianlong emperor in the 18th century.
The Fragrant Concubine, Source: wiki link above
Rongfei has been used either as a symbol for state unity by the Chinese government, or a symbol of unwanted Chinese influence by Uyghur nationalists. The author takes the physical site of her tomb (Disputed location, as she was most likely buried outside of Beijing instead of outside of Kashagar) as a symbol of the conflicted and political nature of Islam in China, and the current ‘Disneylandification’ of Islamic sites in Xinjiang.
Also interesting to note the slightly bipolar pattern that takes place within Chinese policy: they’ll float out a whole bunch of soft policies (like building mosques with state sponsored money) and then crackdown hard once they perceive people are organizing in large numbers around Islam, ex. forbidding the celebration of Ramadan entirely. Also the authors of Xinjiang seem to state that the Chinese government has steadily denied (at least publicly) that Uyghur-Han violence could be caused by anything other than outside forces, and most certainly not by any type of Chinese policy. This pattern can be seen in the water/ environmental policies as well.
Its late! More tomorrow.