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Archive for July, 2010

Taking a walk in the neighborhood of the old city of Kucha, one is likely to be invited by friendly locals for a drink in their home.

 

The first mistake I made upon arriving in Kucha, a small town in central Xinjiang, was to approach a policeman for direction. 

The second mistake that followed was asking the same policeman if there were cheap guesthouses around the old city of Kucha. 

The third mistake was to reveal to the policeman that I am a foreign tourist. I should have known better, from then on, I was marked. 

Barely half an hour after welcoming me into his family run guesthouse at the edge of the old city, Yusof had to come to me and said apologetically: “I am sorry, I have just been informed and reminded by the police that my guesthouse cannot host foreigners.” (more…)

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Today, I defied the advice of many concerned friends and went to a Uygur neighborhood in Urumqi on the anniversary of last year’s ethnic riots; but I must admit, after learning more about the racial tension in Xinjiang, I walked around with some apprehension.

I exhibited my tourist identity – a camera hanging down my neck, spotting a colorful tubular buff as headwear, and speaking in limited Uygur language that I picked up in the past week. But what difference would that make? In the eyes of the locals, I would be a Han Chinese tourist from another province.

Oddly enough, when I walked down a lane with many roadside stalls and stopped to buy some cookies from a Uygur vendor, the middle-aged woman asked if I was a journalist. Perhaps, no Han would have any business to stroll down a street full of Uygur, and with security forces in every corner.

Apparently, quite some tourists who owned a SLR camera have been mistaken as a “professional” and asked the same question. A few days ago, I met a tourist from Thailand, who claimed to have been detained by the police for some two hours, as he was being suspected a journalist. (more…)

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周年日

乌鲁木齐一个维族小区里玩耍的小孩们,也许他们并没有意识到“周年日”的紧张气氛。

 

今天是7月5日,对乌鲁木齐而言,是个敏感的日子。去年的今天,流血事件的发生,改变了不少当地人的沟通方式和生活习惯,这其中涉及的种族间微妙的情感变化,似乎有点说不清理还乱。  

在中国境内,“种族冲突”或“种族暴乱”这样的词汇是被避免采用的,该事件被定性为新疆“7.5打砸抢烧杀暴力事件”。官方数据显示该事件导致197人死亡,1700人受伤。  

我熟悉中国官方刻意淡化该流血事件的种族色彩的意图,在多元种族的马来西亚,媒体也经常遵守着类似的准则;比如在报道暴力事件时,不宜突出肇事者或受害者的种族身份,虽然在马来西亚,只要透露姓名就等于暴露了种族身份,但仿佛只要不强调种族背景,就能够淡化一些种族间的刻板印象或对立情绪。  

在今天到来前的数天,乌鲁木齐市内一些被视为高风险的地段,当地人称之为“民族地区”,其实就是指维吾尔族聚居较为密集的地方,驻扎了许多武装部队,巡逻车也一直从早到晚地来回穿梭。 (more…)

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Armed personnel patrol the streets of Urumqi diligently.

 

Instead of taking me to a restaurant that served Xinjiang signature dishes like roasted whole lamb, grill meat or pulou rice, a few acquaintances in Urumqi treated me to Sichuan hot pot yesterday.  

Initially I thought they were trying to please my Malaysian taste bud that preferred the hot and spicy southern Chinese cuisine, but later I was startled to learn of the real reason.    

“We are not treating you to typical Xinjiang food, because after last year’s incident, we have quit going to Uygur restaurant or eating Uygur food,” said Wang, a Han ethnic who is born and bred in Urumqi.  

I have arrived in the provincial capital of Xinjiang Uygur Minority Autonomous Region, Urumqi, just ahead of the anniversary of last year’s July 5 bloody ethnic riots, which left 197 dead and some 1,700 injured, according to official figure.  

Last year, what started as a street protest demanding investigations into a Uygur-Han brawl at a factory in southern China, had instead turned violent in Urumqi. The Turkic-speaking Muslim Uygur attacked and killed the Han, who is the biggest ethnic group in China, and eventually led to a bloody crackdown.  

Since then, like Wang, many Han locals in Urumqi have boycotted Uygur businesses – from restaurants, grocery shops to department stores. The deadly riots have further strained the already difficult race relations in Xinjiang. (more…)

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