23 October 2016
Slain dogs are lined up for the Yulin festival; Muslim students were asked to eat rice dumplings during their month of fasting. Photos: Reuters, RFA
Slain dogs are lined up for the Yulin festival; Muslim students were asked to eat rice dumplings during their month of fasting. Photos: Reuters, RFA

Look who’s talking: State newspaper defends local traditions

A state-owned newspaper has come to the defense of the dog meat festival, which is celebrated annually in Yulin in southern China’s Guangxi autonomous region, amid growing protests from pet lovers and animal rights activists worldwide.

The Global Times, a sister publication of the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, said in an editorial on Tuesday that the “Summer Lychee and Dog Meat Festival”, which will be held in Yulin on June 22, is a local custom that should be respected.

The newspaper said other people should not impose their standards on the Yulin people for that would be tantamount to infringing on their human rights, Ming Pao Daily reports.

The editorial said eating dog meat is not a nationwide social custom and whether the festival should continue or not is debatable, but it stressed that any solution should be reached through discussion rather than by imposing one’s will on other people.

Calling the Yulin custom “very local with its own characteristics”, the editorial said that Westerners’ opposition to the tradition of eating dog meat is understandable.

However, it said, changing other people’s eating habits could trigger a lot of consternation on the part of those who observe the tradition.

It urged Western media and animal rights groups not to escalate their demand to the national level as that would be cultural extremism and an attempt to smear China’s image.

At the same time, the editorial called on dog meat merchants and consumers in Yulin to keep a low profile to allow the dispute to die down.

Well said. But while the state newspaper seeks to uphold the right of local people to observe their own customs and traditions, the state itself is accused of imposing its own traditions on the country’s ethnic minorities.

Taiwan’s Liberty Times reported on Thursday that the central government has launched a campaign in northwestern China’s Xinjiang province to “encourage” Muslim ethnic groups to take part in cultural activities where they can feel free to eat and drink as much as they like.

Islamic students were asked to eat rice dumplings to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, which fell on June 9, to enhance their sense of Chinese identity, Liberty Times said, citing a report from Radio Free Asia.

However, the celebration coincided with the Muslims’ observance of Ramadan, which started on June 6, during which they have to fast from dawn to dusk for a month.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, which is based in Munich, Germany, said the campaign was aimed at testing whether the Uyghur minorities, many of whom are Muslims, could observe their religious practice of abstinence during the Dragon Boat Festival.

Raxit said many Uyghurs ended up violating their own religious beliefs in order to abide by the Chinese government’s “request”, which they could choose not to follow at their own peril.

Talk about double standards.

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