“China’s war on terror widens Xinjiang’s ethnic divide”

Reuters has a piece on the growing divide in Xinjiang:

China’s often ruthless methods of control in Xinjiang, and in neighboring Tibet, underscore its strategic location for the ruling Communist Party, on the borders of Central Asia, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

Beijing sees Xinjiang as bulwark facing the Muslim nations of central Asia, and, with a sixth of the country’s land mass, as an important and largely empty space to offer some relief to the teeming provinces to the east. The land also is rich in natural resources, including oil, coal and gas.

Any disintegration of control could wreak havoc for the world’s second largest economy, whose growth Beijing sees as key to maintaining social stability and the Party’s grip on power.

Many Uighurs say the past decade has seen them tarred with the same brush — a fifth column bent on China’s disintegration. Riots between Uighurs and Han in Urumqi two years ago killed almost 200 people, only deepening the mutual suspicion.

“We used to mix with the Chinese but no longer. That restaurant there once had many Chinese customers. None dare to come here now,” said trader Anwar, pointing across the street to a kebab shop in Urumqi’s heavily Uighur old quarter.

He was once able to travel outside of China fairly easily on business for a food import company he set up in the late 1990s. In recent years, his trips abroad have tailed off to zero.

“The Chinese are bad people. They are Communists and have no god. We are Muslims, and God is in every one of our hearts. There are no areas in life where we can intersect now.”

The Han who dominate Urumqi, rarely venturing far into the old quarter, say they in turn have little time for the Uighurs.

If anything, the Uighurs are treated too well, Han Chinese say, spoiled by preferential places at university and no restrictions on the number of children they can have.

“They’re a very backward people. Look at how many children they produce. We get fined it we have more than one, but they can have as many as they want,” said Yan Haisen, born in Urumqi but whose family is from the poor inland province of Henan.

“We have to be here to help them develop and to bring them some culture,” added Yan as his uncle nodded in agreement.

You couldn’t get more colonial if you tried.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, Xinjiang

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