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A voice for the voiceless: online social activism in Uyghur language blogs and state control of the Internet in China

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Much has been written in recent years about Chinese online activism. Although in China Internet use is officially regulated and censored, China nevertheless has the world's largest number of Internet users, with blogs being the largest communication platform. However, most of the research on Chinese use of social media to date has focused specifically on Chinese language Internet sources, with little attention paid to online activity among any of China's 55 officially recognized ethnic minority groups, such as the Uyghurs. Uyghurs are an ethnic group native to China's northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. They speak Uyghur language natively, a Turkic language that utilizes an Arabic script, and most are Moslems. As the largest ethnic group within a region of China noted as among China's most politically sensitive, the Uyghurs provide a rich source for study of the use of the Internet by a potentially contentious group. This research thus seeks to fill a gap in the literature by addressing the question: In what ways do Uyghurs utilize social media as a form of online activism? The findings show that in Uyghur blogs, comments are often posted using veiled language such as metaphors, sarcasm, and humor, or references to traditional Uyghur sayings and culture practices as a means of expressing subversive political communication, in an indirect way.
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Keywords: China; Uyghur; Xinjiang; online social activism; social media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Education, Drexel University, One Drexel Plaza, Ste. 148, Philadelphia, PA, 19104, USA 2: Department of Sociology, Drexel University, PSA Building 47-Room 309, 3228 – 50 Powelton Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19104, USA

Publication date: June 2, 2016

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