“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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Filed under ethnic conflict, forced relocation, Xinjiang

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