The Xinjiang Perspective: Part II
Image Credit: Wikicommons

The Xinjiang Perspective: Part II


Graham Adams shares his  personal observations, experiences, and conversations from around Xinjiang. Please see the first part of this series here.

In an article on ethnic, religious, and political conflict in Xinjiang, Michael Dillion argues that following the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) purge of reformist leader Hu Yaobang in 1987, former Xinjiang military commander Wang Zhen was able to push for more hardline policies in ethnic minority regions. A supportive Chinese official in Xinjiang remarked that "You give them autonomy and they will only turn round and create an East Turkestan…. To stabilise Xinjiang we must send hard-liners like Wang." Yet, in the decades that followed, ethnic unrest and instability have continued to bedevil the region, despite massive amounts of government spending on political campaigns, economic development, and internal security.

Although Beijing publicly espouses firm convictions regarding official policies in Xinjiang,  it's difficult not to notice the clearly conflicted feelings of Uyghur government employees: their identity as civil servants and members of the State Security apparatus, for example, does not appear to supersede their identity as members of a persecuted ethnic group. On the one hand, a number of state employees revealed their desire to work for the government as a means of assisting and protecting other Uyghurs. On the other hand, they also revealed deep cynicism and frustration with the Chinese government. There are the Public Security Bureau workers who shed tears over Uyghurs arrested during the 2009 riots and speak secretly of their dreams of Xinjiang independence. There are also the state employees who describe bitterly government restrictions on religious practices, particularly during Ramadan. Muslims working for the government discussed their secret visits to mosques and their disgust at Chinese colleagues who pressured them not to fast. Then there was the state employee who revealed that on the third anniversary of the July 2009 riots, work units in Urumqi provided Chinese employees with batons to "protect" themselves in the event of any ethnic disturbances. No Uyghurs or other ethnic minorities received batons, not even longtime Chinese Communist Party members. This decision, argued the state employee, was a message to non-Chinese ethnic groups that the state not only does not trust them, but also sees them as a threat to social stability. 

One reason why many Uyghurs, including government employees, feel antagonistic toward the Chinese is that although a great deal of propaganda touts the importance of ethnic harmony and unity, none of it explicitly encourages Chinese to display cultural or religious sensitivity toward the local population. Uyghurs and ethnic minorities often complain that Chinese are at best woefully ignorant of their customs and at worst blatantly racist. Examples of uneducated and offensive behavior are unfortunately abundant. I witnessed a Chinese mother allowing her child to urinate on the grounds of a historical Uyghur tomb complex, right outside a mosque. I heard a Chinese realtor explain that it is difficult for outsiders to live in Uyghur neighborhoods, as locals are dirty and their bodies emit a strong odor. At a museum exhibit on various ethnic groups in Xinjiang, I saw a tour guide point out the "traditional green hats worn by Uyghurs in Turpan," only to subsequently joke that "you know what we Chinese say about wearing green hats." Everyone in the tour group laughed heartily at the slang reference to having an affair.

My point in raising such anecdotes is not to assert that all Chinese living in Xinjiang are ignorant or racist. Instead, I am simply stating that the government should find more creative and effective ways to address the sort of entrenched behavior that occurs far too frequently and causes deep resentment among locals. Perhaps political education in Xinjiang classrooms could focus less on imparting abstract concepts of "ethnic unity" and "loving the motherland" and more on building ethnic unity by directly addressing harmful cultural and religious stereotypes. Perhaps more institutions could incorporate sensitivity awareness lessons into their professional workshops or job training. Such simple suggestions might ultimately prove far more effective at gradually changing public behavior than large scale propaganda campaigns, especially in the absence of any momentum toward a coherent, nationwide ethnic minority civil rights movement.

Graham Adams specializes in the study of ethnic minority policy in the People's Republic of China. His name has been changed to protect his identity.

October 30, 2012 at 17:14

You're not particularly familiar with China I'm afraid. Kids in China piss and crap literally anywhere – their pants have a slit in the bottom for this. But I guess when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

October 30, 2012 at 14:56

Thank God Chinise cultural sentiments aren't as overcharged as American ones.
Chinese spit on the floor in public transport. So the kid needed to pee?
Thank God it could.

October 30, 2012 at 06:28

Im really surprised at how some people always try to make these "discussions" a matter of race. There are 56 races in China and yeah the Han is the most prevalent, but the idea that only the "homeland" of the Han is the true China and that only Han are REAL Chinese is alien and insulting. What do you think about Manchuria then? Are Manchus real Chinese and Manchu part of China?

October 18, 2012 at 15:09

I'm sorry we're talking about history, facts, not bs. No one deny Tibetan live in tibet for thousands years, genetically speaking, they have same origin as Han Chinese, the rest issue is political, existence of Uighur in Xinjiang is no more than thousand years, this is the fact, and they want to split up and forming a small country only to control the resource of the land, not how to pretect them(of course not their land, who care?)
Besides, on which basis you can kick Han people away? Why shouldn't we stay there? It's fair in your brain? We have all right to stay there FOREVER.Here we can find the relics of prehistory China, understand how the records carried in those ancient books means.

October 11, 2012 at 02:00

This is "Middle Kingdom" thinking, and its a few centuries out of date. 
Let all reasonable people in the world clearly state that Neither The Uyghur homeland in Xinjiang, nor the Tibetan homeland of Tibet, nor the Island of Taiwan, is the "homeland" of Han Chinese. These territories have been conquored and occupied by the Chinese Empire. 
It the land may quite possibly be the homeland of certain Han Chinese individuals given the current situation, but that is no less less true for the Uyghur and Tibetan individuals living there, and they deserve no rights and respect in the land to which they belong than a Han Chinese. 

October 5, 2012 at 23:35

I don't see any points should speak this with Pakistan people, besides, idea of descent of Guomingdang soldiers has nothing to do with historical facts.
Chinese have records of the land dated back four to five thousands years ago, I think it should be called YONGZHOU in prehistory China, one of the nine states of prehistory China, Taklamagan desert is called Liusha, verbally flowing sands, and it's referred as western boundary of China from the grandson of Huangdi, until Qin dynasty. The climate in the area at that time is totally different from now, in one of the ancient book , it state "go four hundred miles west by waterway and arrived Liusha",(here miles maybe three to four hundred meters at that time). I don't think your people have any tiny knowledge on how this place looks at that time, and you want to claim it your land.
Besides, there're many other minorities live there and what you want to deal with them? Purge them then make it a pure Uighur Land?

October 5, 2012 at 23:17

I'm sorry why should we talk to Pakistanese the story, the feeling of descent of Guomingdang poeple is irrelevent to the fact, this land could be named as YONGZHOU, one of nine states in prehistory China, where we always referred as land of China.
We have record of the land dated back four to five thousands years ago, and we know how looks this area four to five thousand years ago, but I don't think your people have any idea about it, how can you know nothing about the land you want to say owned by you. What you called Taklamagan desert is called Liusha in prehistory China, which is referred in many books as western boundary of China from the grandson of Huangdi, until Qin dynasty.

October 4, 2012 at 16:08

google Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 China part, you will see my testimony there.

October 4, 2012 at 16:06

Tell these stories to the Pakistanis, I'm sure they will buy it.   I had Chinese classmates who were the grandchildren of former soldiers of the Nationalist Chinese army (Guo min dang). They never said East Turkistan was their homeland. They wanted to return to Shanghai, but they were banned to return because the CCP didn't issue them local Shanghai residency (Hukou). Oh yeah, What was the Chinese name of that "old homeland"?

Talking point
October 4, 2012 at 08:11

Zuo zongtang's campaign was against Mongols, not uigurs. In effect, XinJiang was dominated by hans, tibetans and by Mongols. Uigurs were never a dominate group there. 
Umidmusteqil most likely got his education free from the dimes of China. China's money comes mostly from Han Chinese.

October 4, 2012 at 05:52

Wow… this is becoming a classic. The US was never mentioned in the article and your reaction is to point out the Americans' faults?
And what you're espousing willl lead to terror attacks. I hope you're aware of that. Try dislodging those minorities from their homelands, and you can sit back and enjoy the trouble that will cause.

Talking point
October 3, 2012 at 20:53

What you have experienced? What do you want to do? I am interested to hear

October 3, 2012 at 12:37

"Didn't Zuo ZongTang recieve support from the British when he invaded East Turkistan?" It do not exist a so called "East Turkistan" in this planet, it's in some one's dream.Zuo Zongtang do not invade, how can land lord back to be his home viewed as invasion, Xinjiang is so named as "Old homeland, new territory", people always referred to the later wordy "new territory", forgot we called them "Old homeland". We lose control or pose weak control over this land for two thousand years, but do not mean we gave it up forever.

October 3, 2012 at 03:02

Have you ever heard of the saying: two wrong can't make a right?If Muslim countries treat the Chinese minorities in their countries as second class citizens that can't justify the harsh policies of the CCP toward Uighurs.
Who are you to suggest Uighurs to migrate to other country? I don't think there is a department called Department of Immigration in China which you possibly happen to be an official of.
Remember that Uighurs are not receiving any support from the CIA yet, but receiving financial support from the NED. Even if we recieved financial support from the CIA, what's wrong with that? Didn't Zuo ZongTang recieve support from the British when he invaded East Turkistan? As you mentioned, let reality rule: history repeats itself mate. Why aren't we allow to do the same thing which you did?
This article is nothing compare to what I have experienced in China.

Indignifying Treatment Of Han Chinese Within China
October 2, 2012 at 17:29

I am all in support of minority groups being treated and tacitly classified as second class citizens.  Same like how Chinese minorities in Muslim and non Muslim countries, more so Muslim cuntries, treating Chinese minorities as second class citizens and as people to be milked like a cash cow.
Let reality rule.  If the Uighurs wish, they can migrate en masse to Turkey or Uzbekistan if they like.  If they continue to be influenced and organized by the CIA.
I think it is indignifying for Chinese to be treated as second class citizens in their own homeland. That timid and stupid Hu had his head turned around too much like a ventroloquist dummy by American propganda.  let's hope Xi will know how to maintain Chinese pride and dignity.  No second class treatment in Chinese Xinjiang or Chinese Tibet.
Like so many comments which highlights the truth and focus on other than the propaganda push by Washington's mass emdias, I expect this comment too will not be published.  A situation akin to the U.S downplaying the civilian deaths and atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers.  And they expect people to love and worship the U.S..  What arrogance and vanity.  Americans – the exceptional people – gods of this planet. Hah.

talking points
October 2, 2012 at 06:03

this is a high quality article. I am totally in agreement with the author's observation, that Chinese education system doesn't teach sensitivity and tolerance. it only broadly talks about harmony and respect. it should be more about realities and sensitivities.
My fellow Chinese countrymen are not well trained in culture sensitivities. this I will loudly admit.

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