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    Posted May 28, 2014 by
    Cologno al Serio, Italy
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Life in China

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    Xinjiang - Uighurs vs han

    The Xinjiang region has been part of the Chinese Empire since 1876, when the chinese general Zho Zhung Tang conquered the far west lands bordering Russian Empire. In 1884 the Qing dynasty renamed the region Xinjiang, “New Territory”. The chinese claim that these lands were already part of Chinese Empire since Han dynasty (202 b.C. – 220 a.C.).
    The main ethnic group, the uighurs, have never been united in one nations, but 1933 when the Republic of East Turkestan were formed backed by Stalin’s Soviet Union as buffered state. In 1949 the chinese People’s Liberation Army came back to Xinjiang and the Turkestan Republic was abolished.
    Instead of being united by nationalism, the uighurs are commonly describing themselves as ethnic-turkish people and latter, islamic (islam came in Xinjiang in late X century). Islam has been a value of contrast to han (the main ethnic chinese population) only after 90’s, after the dissolving of Soviet Union and the formation of the central asian republics. The afghan war raised the chinese fear that islamic terrorists were hiring nationalists between uighurs in Xinjiang. East Turkestan Islamic Movement is considered the most active and dangerous islamic movement in Xinjiang, but so far no clear evidence of its existence has been proved.
    Since the end of last century, Beijing invested huge capitals to develop Xinjiang, but uighurs claim that the development is a weapon to destroy their culture. Demography in the region has been change drastically: in 1949 Xinjiang was inhabited by 4.900.000 people, 75% uighurs and 6,1% han. In 2010 the population grow to 22.000.000 formed by 43% han and 45% uighurs. City like Urumqi has 90% han population, while southern Xinjiang is inhabitated mostly by uighurs.
    The most Uighur city is Kashgar, whose People’s Square has one of the biggest Mao’s statue of China (photo 1) . Chinese authorities are replacing old traditional-wooden houses with new concrete-apartments (photos 2, 3 and 4) saying that will improve uighurs living conditions.
    Also public education is a fighting issue: as uighurs are claiming, chinese government uses public schools to install han culture since childhood (photo 5).
    All these problems are the fuel for the protests in Xinjiang. Recently the violence upsurged in the region: in april, 21 people died in a terrorist attack in Kashgar and other 39 died in last May blast in Urumqi. Chinese government said that East Turkestan Islamic Movement was responsible also of the Kunming attack last march, which left 29 people dead. Hence the military presence has been intensified (photo 6).
    Uighurs follow Islamic religion (photo 7), but some of them are christian-catholic (photo 8). It is said that Nestorians came in this region to escape from the persecutions .
    The differences between uighurs and has are clearly seen at the markets (photos 9 and 10).
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