Category Archives: Xinjiang

“Suicide Attack on National Day”

In Xinjiang, where Chinese National Day can seem like something of a cruel joke, RFA is reporting on a suicide attack on a Chinese border post:

The motorcycle crash caused an explosion at the People’s Armed Police facility in a rural area of Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture on Oct. 1, sources said, though the exact number of casualties was unknown

“When we were informed about this it was around noon and we were on our way to the flag-raising ceremony for National Day.”

“We were told that some people died and some were injured. But because it happened on the base, we were not given the details,” he told RFA’s Uyghur service.

One resident in Chasamechit village speaking on condition of anonymity said a total of 20 people had died or been injured in the incident, but police have not confirmed the figure.

Police have arrest warrants and are searching for two Uyghur men around age 21 or 22, Abdurahman Abdusattar said.

“From what we can see from their pictures they are modern-looking Uyghur boys with unshaved heads and without beards,” he said.

A local official in a nearby village, speaking on condition of anonymity, said news of the incident had been kept out of the media in order to quell fears among the Han Chinese living in Kargilik, where 20 people were killed in a stabbing incident in February.

Last week’s attack could have been a reaction to the shooting in December of a group of Uyghurs in Guma county last December, the official said.

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“The Souls of Chinese Cities”

FP has put out a bunch of great China-related content in the last few days. The first one I’ll post is from Christina Larson, who explores three very different Chinese cities. From her description of Urumqi:

China’s far western region of Xinjiang follows its own time. Officially, all of China recognizes a single time zone, but Urumqi’s clocks are set two hours behind — referred to unofficially as “Xinjiang time.” It’s just one more example of the ways in which history here has tended to move in fits and starts, out of sync, both accidentally and by design.

Each evening at sunset, the adhan, or Islamic call to prayer, briefly fills the streets of Xinjiang’s capital, before being overtaken by the modern static of traffic noise and blaring horns.

But with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, history, having been frozen in time, suddenly lurched forward. The long border went from being Xinjiang’s biggest liability to its greatest asset. Within two years, borders had opened with 16 countries, and Yimirhan, who had by then been promoted to a driver, was soon driving across them. He recalls his first time navigating the “beautiful and frightening” hairpins turns of the famous Karakorum highway. (His 30-year-old daughter, translating for him, smiled at her father’s youthful excitement.)

Sensing a power vacuum in Central Asia, Beijing soon turned its attention to strengthening economic and political ties with its western neighbors, as well as investing to extract Xinjiang’s rich reserves of coal, gas, copper, and other minerals. If China’s modern construction boom came 15 years late to Urumqi, building is now on overdrive here, for economic and political reasons: a 21st century form of manifest destiny.

Today the paved road from Urumqi to Yili takes 10 hours, not 24. New rail lines have opened between Urumqi and Altay, and between Kashgar and Hotan, and there’s even talk of extending the Urumqi-Kashgar rail line all the way to Istanbul. There’s also a plan floated to build a rail link between Urumqi and the port of Gwadar in Pakistan.

Alas, Urumqi’s new wealth has not been evenly distributed. The man appointed in 1994 to be Xinjiang Party Secretary was Wang Lequan; until his ouster following the 2009 ethnic riots in Urumqi, which left roughly 200 people dead, he was a chief architect of Xinjiang’s modernization: well-connected, savvy and adept at wrangling funding from Beijing. He was also a hardliner whose policies toward ethnic minorities — including restricting religious fasting, praying, and other observances in schools and government offices — earned him no love from the city’s Uighur Muslims. One professor told me that the most harmful result of his policies was to systematically deny Uighurs opportunities and promotions in government agencies.

Urumqi today is a divided city. Government investment is flowing into the northern part of the city, but the southern part, the Uighur corridor, has seen little development since the 2009 riots. One Saturday evening, I went to a Uighur wedding, held in a third-floor hotel ballroom, with fraying rugs and chipping paint. The guests, dressed in everything from gowns to jeans, danced to a mix of pulsing techno music and traditional Uighur songs; groomsmen sprayed the happy couple with silly string from a can. The bride and groom had met at Xinjiang University, and although they and their guests were also mostly well educated, they lived in a world apart; there were no Han Chinese guests. (As a Han friend put it: “Even in the same city, Han and Uighur barely talk to each other; segregation is not an ongoing process, it is a fact.”)

Another afternoon I visited the famous Border Hotel complex, where Central Asian traders come to do business. Typically, I was mistaken for Russian. With me was a young Uighur guide, whose own language is close enough that he can understand most Central Asian languages. But as we entered one hotel lobby, the doorman, a pale, sweaty Han Chinese man with a receding hairline and a nervous manner, stopped him: “What are you doing? Where are you going?” Behind us, an assortment of unshaven Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Tajiks passed by unmolested. “To be Uighur is to be under constant suspicion,” my guide hissed through his teeth. I could easily see that a negative feedback loop was at work. He waited for me outside, puffing nervously on his cigarette; when I came back, he complained: “It’s getting worse.”

I asked if he’d ever been to any of the bordering countries, but he shook his head. “I can’t get a passport.” Fearful that Uighurs will radicalize if they travel abroad, the government has limited their ability to cross borders — a policy that raises the uncomfortable question of just who is supposed to benefit from the “New Silk Road” strategy.

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“China jails Uighurs on separatism charges: reports”

And just to the north of the ongoing crisis in Tibet, China is working to keep Xinjiang unstable as well:

Courts in a restive region of west China with a large Muslim population have jailed 20 people for up to 15 years for using the Internet to incite separatism and “holy war”, state media said Thursday.

The sentences were immediately condemned by a group representing China’s mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, which said they were aimed at silencing critics of Beijing’s policies in the Xinjiang region.

“These criminals used mobile phones, and other media to watch, copy and publicise ‘holy war’ and terrorism through pictures and audio visual materials,” a report on the trials in on Xinjiang’s government-run Tianshan news site said.

“China is meting out heavy sentences to Uighurs who use the Internet to access information that is not controlled by the authorities and who are expressing opposing political views,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, told AFP in a statement.

“These people were seeking freedom and were fighting against institutional persecution.”

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“Han Only”

Autonomous Region has an example of the kind of day-to-day discrimination that mostly flies under the radar, sadly:

The government of Urumqi recently posted a recruitment notice to hire 27 civil service positions this year; 10 of them at the rank of Division Head, 17 at the rank of Deputy Division Head. Like many other things in China’s “minority regions” all positions are ethnicity-specific: all the 10 Division Head rank positions may only be filled by Han; of the 17 Deputy Division Head positions, two may be Uyghur, one by Kazakh, and one by Hui. That means, of the 27 positions at the two Division Head levels, only two may be Uyghur. And this is the capital of a Uyghur region that they call “autonomous.”

This doesn’t only happen with government positions, as private positions in both Xinjiang and the Tibetan regions are frequently given ethnic qualifications. I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure open job discrimination does a lot more to drive ethnic conflict than any of the things the Chinese government ever blames- Rebiya, Dalai, CNN, etc.

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“The Chinese Remaking of Kashgar”

The Huffington Post has a good article from Amy Reger, a researcher at UHRP:

Uyghurs view Kashgar as the spiritual and cultural heart of their culture, and the cradle of Uyghur civilization. However, reminiscent of the demolition of traditional Tibetan buildings in the city of Lhasa that were carried out around a decade ago, Kashgar’s Old City has been demolished piece-by-piece since early 2009. As the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) wrote in a recent report, Living on the Margins: The Chinese State’s Demolition of Uyghur Communities, the majority of the Old City has now been demolished, together with traditional Uyghur communities throughout East Turkestan (also known as Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China).

After the creation of the special economic trading area in Kashgar, real estate prices in the city skyrocketed, as investors from places such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Jiangxi scrambled to secure their own piece of a state-led economic boom. At the European View Gardens apartment complex, one of a spate of new residential complexes that has sprung up alongside demolitions and investment in Kashgar, a New York Times reporter asked a Chinese salesman why there were no Uyghur-language promotional materials. The salesman responded by saying, “What’s the point? They can’t afford this place.”

In an online marketing video for European View Gardens, which is located on land formerly owned by Uyghurs, a Chinese-speaking narrator promotes digitalized images of the property’s beautiful landscaping and cascading fountains, which are populated by families and security guards who appear to be Han Chinese.

The new housing developments featured in the videos are indistinguishable from cities in eastern China, thereby enticing Chinese residents who otherwise may have been uncomfortable moving to an environment outside of the Han cultural domain. These videos, and their lack of representation of Uyghurs and other non-Han peoples, raise doubts about who is benefiting from government policies to drive investment to Kashgar and other cities in East Turkestan. In Kashgar, officials have suggested that Uyghurs would be able to return to their rebuilt Old City residences in the wake of construction, but financial constraints make this seem unlikely.

A quick look at recent online job advertisements in Kashgar reveals a number of instances in which candidates are openly limited to members of the Han Chinese population. Several ads placed on a website for “Dongcheng Huayuan” (东城花园), one of the many new residential complexes springing up in the city, specify that applicants must be Han Chinese. One ad seeks two Chinese individuals with mechanical repair skills; another seeks an office manager and an office clerk, each of whom must be Han Chinese; and a third seeks an accountant and a cashier, each of whom must be Han Chinese. Examples of recent online job ads for companies throughout Kashgar that specify applicants must be Han Chinese also include this ad for two truck drivers; an ad for ten cashiers; and an ad for 12 advertising salespersons, 12 telephone marketing representatives and two website editors.

As Kashgar and other cities in East Turkestan become increasingly “Chinese,” Uyghurs are being pushed further to the margins, both in terms of their living spaces and their role in society. The widening ethnic gap in who benefits from regional transformation raises concerns about ethnic relations and the prospects for sustainable progress in East Turkestan.

It’s scary how accurate this story remains if you switch out Uyghur for Tibetan or Mongolian and Lhasa or the Inner Mongolian grasslands.

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“Slain Uyghurs Not Linked to Bomb”

Another incredibly unsurprising report about the Xinjiang shootings, where it turns out the Uyghurs killed weren’t actually terrorist bomb-makers:

Four Uyghur men shot dead by police in China’s troubled Xinjiang region last week were not linked to bomb-making activities as suspected but may have had “terror plans,” security officials said Tuesday, as residents disputed any terrorism intentions.

Korla police said that there was evidence that the men, who defended themselves with knives during the raid, had plans for terrorist activity, though they did not elaborate.

Local residents who knew the Uyghurs involved disputed the police theory that those killed were suspected terrorists, claiming that the Chinese authorities had fabricated evidence in the past to justify the killings of Uyghurs.

“Yes, it was wrong to make the conjecture [that they were linked], but the shooting was not wrong, because the four disobeyed police during the raid operation,” said Seypidin, a senior security official in Korla.

Moreover, the four killed had shown evidence of extremism, he said, defending the police action.

“Even though they don’t have an organizational link with the bomb-maker, their ideology and political views are 100 percent the same. And in addition, we found enough evidence of a terror plan, like axes and boxing gloves,” he said.

Boxing gloves: evidence of a terror plan, when in the possession of a minority in China.

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“Uyghurs ‘Prepared To Fight And Die'”

RFA has the latest on a story that’s slowly been breaking over the last two days. More violence in Xinjiang:

Four Uyghur men shot dead by Chinese authorities last week for suspected bomb-making in the restive northwestern Xinjiang region were prepared for their death and even had made their own funeral arrangements, according to police.

The men were gunned down in a pre-dawn raid at a farmhouse near Korla city in central Xinjiang on Thursday as part of the Chinese government’s “strike hard” anti-crime campaign in the region.

The four men, armed only with knives, knew they had no chance against the gun-toting police.

They gave farewell hugs to their wives and children and made their own funeral arrangements before confronting the pursuers, officers who supervised the operation said.

Six policemen were initially involved in the raid at the farmhouse near Korla city in the Bayin’gholin prefecture but they had to seek reinforcements after a police officer’s arms were chopped at by an assailant, they said.

Seypidin said some top officials had criticized the police operation because none of the suspects were captured alive.

Police identified the ringleader of the suspected bomb-making activity as Nesrulla, who they said moved to the farmhouse from Korla city after a warrant for his arrest was issued on March 5.

Nesrulla also moved his wife and their son to Hejing county two days before the shooting.

Police who monitored the wife’s house in Hejing had detained 12 people who visited her.

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