On Sunday night, 16 people were killed in the latest violence to hit Xinjiang, China’s far western Muslim-majority region. The violence took place, according to reports, near Kashgar, an old Silk Road city close to China’s western border, that is, in some sense, the spiritual and cultural home of Xinjiang’s native Uighurs, an ethnic Turkic Muslim group that is one of China’s 55 minorities. If you look at a map of China, you will see how close Kashgar is to Ladakh. When I first travelled to Kashgar, around five years ago, a local guide told me of the region’s cultural and historical links to Ladakh (which, he told me, once lay within the frontiers of the kingdom of Kashgar many centuries ago). One still finds clues to this history in Ladakh, too. Recently, Daulet Beg Oldi in Ladakh found itself in the national headlines as it was the site of a stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops. The site lies on an old road that was once a trading route to Kashgar, and, I was told during my visit, was named after a 16th century aristocrat who spent some of his life in Kashgar.
East Turkestan & the Uyghurs
The Tibetan Autonomous Region of China has been largely closed to the outside world since it was wracked by popular protests in 2008. But the extreme degree of its isolation is hinted at by this very revealing fact: There are more foreign journalists in North Korea than there are in Tibet. That's according to Tibet scholar Carole McGranahan, who is a professor of the University of Colorado at Boulder and who made the point during a recent lecture at Yale University, video of which is embedded below. McGranahan discussed the rising trend of Tibetan self-immolations – a form of political protest against Chinese rule – and the challenge of understanding Tibet's turmoil. Beijing's near-total isolation of Tibet, though, makes it awfully difficult for the outside world to see or understand what's happening there. Presumably, that's part of the point; Chinese rule in Tibet can be shockingly severe, as can the ongoing efforts to assimilate Tibetan people and culture into the rest of China.
The vigil was held to remember all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience who sacrificed their freedom and lives to promote and protect the human rights of those living under the Chinese Communist Party's regime in East Turkestan, Tibet and across China. The vigil was organized by Chinese Uyghur & Tibetan Solidarity UK, a coalition of organizations and activists of which Tibet Society is a founding member. At the start of the vigil, organizers were informed by police that they would not be allowed onto Embassy property to deliver a giant postcard addressed to the Chinese Ambassador.
Reports from Tianshan, the Xinjiang government’s news service, indicate that 16 people died during an incident in Xinjiang late Sunday night. According to the report, Chinese police were in Shufu County, in the Kashgar region, seeking to apprehend unnamed criminal suspects. The police force was then attacked by rioters throwing homemade explosives and wielding machetes.
In this paper I focus on the historical and contemporary context and conception of Uyghur names and places in translation under the Manchu Qing dynasty, Chinese Nationalists and Chinese communist rulers of the region in the last two centuries. More recently this has combined with the current so called ''Bilingual education'' policies that have unofficially abandonned Uyghur language instruction in Uyghur education to produce a real threat to Uyghur identity and sense of ownership over this territory. It is useful to remind ourselves that similar procedures and methods were applied by the British and Russian empires during their vast colonial exapnsion over the last three centuries, and it is now aggressively copied and implemented by China in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. I ask whether the Chinese state can ultimately achieve its Sinification of Uyghur geographical place names, or whether Uyghurs will be able to preserve the Uyghur language names that currently co-exist with the Chinese names in the Uyghur region.
In The Silk Road of Pop, a documentary about Xinjiang’s modern music scene released earlier this year, the Uyghur hip-hop band Six City raps catchy tunes with an addictive enthusiasm. They live in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, a city that in 2009 endured violent riots in which nearly 200 people, both Han Chinese and Uyghurs, perished.
It was a hot day in the summer of 1995, when two of our chief surgeons told me to fully prepare the mobile surgery equipment and wait for them the next day at the hospital gate with an ambulance and three other assistants at 9 AM. So I did. The next morning, I saw our two chief surgeons appearing around 9AM in a car. They told me to follow them, so we did. About 30-40 minutes later we arrived to Western Mountain (西山, Xishan), an execution ground. It was quite famous; we had all heard of it but never been there before. We had been told to wait behind a hill, and come into the field as soon as we’d hear the gun shot. So we waited. A moment later there were gun shots. Not one, but many. We rushed into the field. An armed police officer approached us and told me where to go. He led us closer, then pointed to a corpse, saying ‘this is the one’.
At least 16 people have been killed in riots near the Silk Road city of Kashgar in the latest deadly violence in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang, state media reported on Monday. Fourteen "terrorists" and two police officers died in the "violent" clashes in Kashgar's Konasheher (in Chinese, Shufu) county on Sunday, the reports said, as the authorities stepped up security in the area. Two people have been detained and an investigation has been launched after a "violent terror gang" attacked police with explosives as they tried to apprehend a "criminal" suspects, according to the reports. The identities of the victims could not be immediately confirmed.
This week, China unveiled 96 km-long (60 miles-long) expressway in Xinjiang, the poor but resource-rich Western province that is home to China’s restive Uighur minority. In October, three people from Xinjiang intentionally crashed a car in Tiananmen Square, killing themselves and two tourists, and Beijing has been conducting harsh crackdowns on the region for years. The four-lane Wucaiwan-Dahuangshan expressway is part of an expensive campaign by Beijing to soothe discontent in the region, but is seen by some critics as an “economic band-aid“ (pdf) for the region’s bigger social problems. “The completion of the highway…will play a significant role in the development of the local economy,” state-media People’s Daily reported (link in Chinese).
Chinese authorities have started carrying out stricter ideological education among ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang and Tibet regions this month and detained those who are not obedient to what they call programs aimed at teaching a more modern way of living, people familiar with the situation said Thursday. A copy of a notice regarding education issued by authorities of Hotan in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region obtained by Kyodo News demands Muslim women not wear head scarves. The notice, dated Dec. 4 and written in the Uyghur language, asks Muslim women to dress in a modern way and says they will have to take reeducation if they do not comply with the request. It also warns that a serious violator of the order will be subject to criminal charges.