July 12, 2009

THE HAN WILL BE LEAVING:

Rumbles on the Rim of China’s Empire (EDWARD WONG, 7/12/09, NY Times)

[M]any Uighurs, a Turkic race of Muslims that is the largest ethnic group among the 20 million people of Xinjiang, have their own competing historical narrative. In it, the region is cast as the Uighurs’ homeland, and the ethnic Han, who only began arriving in large numbers after the Communist takeover in 1949, are portrayed as colonizers.

Mechanisms typical of colonial control — the migration of Han, who are China’s dominant race, and government policies that support the spread of Han language, culture and economic power — provided tinder, some scholars say, for the conflagration of the past week in Xinjiang.

The fighting quickly turned into the deadliest outbreak of ethnic violence in China in decades, and has forced Uighurs and Han across the region to question not only their relations with each other, but also the relationship of the Chinese state to the frontier, or, as some would put it, the imperial power to the colony.

The upheaval began with young Uighurs marching last Sunday in this regional capital to protest a case of judicial discrimination. That exploded into clashes with riot police and Uighurs rampaging through the city and killing Han civilians. Then, for at least three days, bands of Han vigilantes roamed Urumqi, attacking and killing Uighurs. The government said at least 184 people were killed and 1,100 injured in the violence, with most of the dead being Han, a statement that Uighurs dispute.

One Uighur university graduate told of hiding in her apartment for most of the last week. “This is Xinjiang,” she said. “This is our homeland. Where are we going to live if we leave this city? Where are we going to go?”

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 12, 2009 8:11 AM
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