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Posts Tagged ‘Xinjiang’

A Karaoke joint in Tazhong that provides extra services.

“Conquering the Sea of Death” – a slogan on the archway that welcomed me into Tazhong announced.  

After traveling for hundreds of kilometers through a barren desert highway and arriving in Tazhong at two o’clock in the morning, I was surprised by its liveliness.

Though the tiny settlement in the heart of the Taklamakan Desert only has one street, with one row of shop houses lasting for less than a kilometer, it looks like a sleepless town.

Neon lights adorned all the shops, barbecue stalls lined the street, girls in bare-back tops and short skirts scattered all over the places, and loud music from the karaoke rooms floating through the still air.

I soon find out that over 80% of the businesses in Tazhong are related to the flesh trade, be it the barber shops without a single scissor or hairdryer in them, the massage parlors that offer foot massage and more, the karaoke joints, the “recreation” centers, or the only hotel in town.

It was no surprise that when I failed to secure a room in the only hotel in Tazhong, I ended up in a brothel, the only place I could have a soft bed and a roof over my head, and the luxury of getting a bath in the middle of the desert. (more…)

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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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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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