China: What the Uighurs See

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Xinjiang is one of those remote places whose frequent mention in the international press stymies true understanding. Home to China’s Uighur minority, this vast region of western China is mostly known for being in a state of permanent low-grade...

Viewpoint

02.04.15

Why China Is Banning Islamic Veils

Timothy Grose & James Leibold
This week, regional authorities outlawed Islamic veils from all public spaces in the regional capital of China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The Urumqi ban, which went into effect on Sunday February 1 (coincidentally the third annual*...

Features

02.04.15

The City of Urumqi Prohibition on Wearing Items That Mask the Face or Robe the Body

A Proclamation from the Standing Committee of the Urumqi People’s CongressThe “Regulation banning the wearing of items that mask the face or robe the body in public places in the city of Urumqi,” which was passed at the 21st Meeting of the 15th...

Obama’s Anti-Islamic State Push May Be Helping China Crack Down on Its Uighurs

Elias Groll
Foreign Policy
en President Barack Obama in September secured passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring nations to prevent their citizens from traveling abroad to participate in acts of terrorism, it was mostly hailed as a landmark achievement to...

Turks Are Held in Plot to Help Uighurs Leave China

New York Times
Shanghai police arrested 10 Turkish citizens and two Chinese citizens and accused them of providing altered Turkish passports to terrorist suspects from the western region of Xinjiang.

The Colorful Propaganda of Xinjiang

BBC
BBC
The government believes religion breeds terror and has been trying to control religious expression in the region by imposing rules on the Uighur community. Critics say it is exacerbating the terror problem.

China Has Just Banned the Burqa in Its Biggest Muslim City

Quartz
Moves like these are likely to further alienate an already disenchanted minority group—the Uighurs, who feel their culture and economy is being overrun by Han Chinese.

China Sentences 8 to Death for Attacks in Xinjiang

Didi Tang
ABC
The Urumqi Intermediate People's Court in the capital of Xinjiang also handed out suspended death sentences to five others, China Central Television said, without mentioning when the trials were held...

Books

11.12.14

The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History

Rian Thum
For 250 years, the Turkic Muslims of Altishahr—the vast desert region to the northwest of Tibet—have led an uneasy existence under Chinese rule. Today they call themselves Uyghurs, and they have cultivated a sense of history and identity that challenges Beijing’s official national narrative. Rian Thum argues that the roots of this history run deeper than recent conflicts, to a time when manuscripts and pilgrimage dominated understandings of the past. Beyond broadening our knowledge of tensions between the Uyghurs and the Chinese government, this meditation on the very concept of history probes the limits of human interaction with the past.Uyghur historical practice emerged from the circulation of books and people during the Qing Dynasty, when crowds of pilgrims listened to history readings at the tombs of Islamic saints. Over time, amid long journeys and moving rituals, at oasis markets and desert shrines, ordinary readers adapted community-authored manuscripts to their own needs. In the process they created a window into a forgotten Islam, shaped by the veneration of local saints.Partly insulated from the rest of the Islamic world, the Uyghurs constructed a local history that is at once unique and assimilates elements of Semitic, Iranic, Turkic, and Indic traditions—the cultural imports of Silk Road travelers. Through both ethnographic and historical analysis, The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History offers a new understanding of Uyghur historical practices, detailing the remarkable means by which this people reckons with its past and confronts its nationalist aspirations in the present day. —Harvard University Press {chop}

Unrest in China Leaves 22 Dead Following Xinjiang Attack

Lucy Hornby
Financial Times
A new ethnic clash in the restive region of Xinjiang, on China’s central Asian frontier, saw 22 people killed after Uighur assailants attacked Han Chinese merchants at a wholesale food market near the border with Kyrgyzstan. 

China Launches Massive Rural ‘Surveillance’ Project to Watch Over Uighurs

Tom Phillips
Telegraph
They arrived at the fringes of China's modern day empire in early March, setting up base in a family planning center with riot shields, helmets and two sharp 6-foot spears propped up inside the front door...

Chinese Court Sentences Uighur Scholar to Life in Separatism Case

Edward Wong
New York Times
A university professor who has come to symbolize peaceful resistance by ethnic Uighurs to Chinese policies was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of separatism in the western region of Xinjiang.

Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti Sentenced—A Moderate Silenced

Gady Epstein
Economist
Though he has always advocated nonviolence and says he opposes separatism, Mr Tohti appears to be paying a price for a series of episodes of violent unrest involving Uighurs.

‘They Don’t Want Moderate Uighurs’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In my series of interviews with Chinese intellectuals, there is an empty chair for Ilham Tohti, the economist and Uighur activist. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of him or hadn’t been in China long enough to have met him before he was arrested earlier...

From China to Jihad?

Richard Bernstein from New York Review of Books
It’s a very long way from China’s arid Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the country’s far northwest to its semi-tropical borders with Vietnam, Laos, and Burma in the south, and then it’s another precarious distance from there, down rivers and...

Fabled Uighur Princess Coming to Chinese Television as a Cartoon

Edward Wong
New York Times
Animators in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen are creating a 104-episode cartoon series loosely based on a historical Qing Dynasty imperial consort, a Uighur woman who is shrouded in myth.

China Says 8 Executed in Western Region; Charges Stem From Separatist Attacks

Chris Buckley`
New York Times
The executions were the latest in a succession of displays of might and resolve by the Chinese government, which is trying to extinguish increasingly violent discontent among Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Wang Lixiong and Woeser: A Way Out of China’s Ethnic Unrest?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Woeser and Wang Lixiong are two of China’s best-known thinkers on the government’s policy toward ethnic minorities. With violence in Tibet and Xinjiang now almost a monthly occurrence, I met them at their apartment in Beijing to talk about the issue...

Media

08.07.14

Beards and Muslim Headscarves Banned From Buses In One Xinjiang City

A city in China’s remote western Xinjiang region has temporarily banned men with beards and women with Muslim headscarves from taking public buses. The extreme security measure—to be implemented for the duration of a sports competition slated to...

China Imposes Intrusive Rules on Uighurs in Xinjiang

Barbara Demick
Los Angeles Times
Black-clad, helmet-wearing paramilitary forces were seen in several locations in recent days, stopping Uighur men to check their IDs and scroll through the playlists of their phones.

China Charges Leading Uighur Professor with Separatism

Andrew Jacobs
New York Times
Although not unexpected, analysts say the decision to criminally prosecute Ilham Tohti is a clear signal that the Communist Party leadership under President Xi Jinping will broach no criticism of its increasingly hard-line ethnic policies.

22 Attackers Shot Dead in Xinjiang Violence as Extremists Wielding Axes Targeted Civilians

South China Morning Post
Attack on government office and police station follows series of violent incidents in restive province.

China Denies Entry to an American Scholar Who Spoke Up for a Uighur Colleague

Edward Wong
New York Times
When Elliot Sperling landed in Beijing, he found himself dragged by border officers back to the same jet that he had flown in on, despite the fact he had arrived with a valid one-year tourist visa.

China Bans Xinjiang Officials From Observing Ramadan Fast

BBC
Activists have accused Beijing of exaggerating the threat from Uighur separatists to justify a crackdown on the Uighurs’ religious and cultural freedoms.

Web Preaches Jihad to China's Muslim Uighurs

Jeremy Page and Ned Levin
Wall Street Journal
China says the Internet and social media incite terrorism among Uighur minority.

China’s Two Problems with the Uyghurs

Lisa Ross
Los Angeles Review of Books
Beijing has two problems with the Uyghurs, the Turkic-speaking, Central Asian people from China’s northwestern Xinjiang region. One problem is terrorism; the other problem is civil rights.

Residents Try to Move On After Terrorist Attack in China

Andrew Jacobs
New York Times
By the time the vehicles exploded at opposite ends of the block, 43 people were dead and more than 90 people were wounded, according to an updated casualty list.

Media

05.23.14

“What’s Been Done to My Beautiful Homeland?”

Nigel Maiti, an ethnically Uighur host for Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, is a well-known and popular entertainer with more than 1 million followers on the social media site Sina Weibo. After 31 were killed by a coordinated bomb and truck attack at...

Media

05.19.14

One Uighur Man’s Journey in Two Cultures

Over the past two months, the relationship between China’s estimated 10 million Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people, most of whom follow some form of Sunni Islam, and the majority Han population has deteriorated after a series of violent incidents...

Media

04.23.14

Welcome to Uighur Web—Now Watch What You Say

China’s Internet is vast, with millions of sites and more than 618 million users. But nested within that universe is a tiny virtual community comprising just a few thousand websites where China’s Uighur, the country’s fifth-largest ethnic minority...

After 3/1: The Dangers of China’s Ethnic Divide

Evan Osnos
New Yorker
The pressure posed by ethnic unrest is the biggest story on the Chinese horizon, and that struggle—the pressure from below, and the response it will bring—just moved into the foreground.

China’s Muslims Will Pay a Heavy Price for the Kunming Knife Attacks

Isabel Hilton
Guardian
There’s no evidence that the Kunming station attack had any connection to global jihad, but that won’t prevent a crackdown.

After Train Station Massacre Labeled ‘China's 9/11,’ a Wide Search for Culprits

Christina Larson
Businessweek
Although no details about the identities of the assailants have been released, state-run newswire Xinhua attributed the Kunming railway station massacre to “terrorists from Xinjiang.”

China Charges Prominent Uighur Professor with Separatism

Ben Blanchard
Reuters
The government’s case against Ilham Tohti is the latest sign of its hardening stance on dissent in Xinjiang, where unrest in the past year has killed more than 100, including several police, according to state media.

Media

03.03.14

‘Enemies of Humanity’ — China Debates Who’s to Blame For the Kunming Attack

It’s already being called “3.01,” or “three oh one,” a date that will likely burn in China’s collective memory for years to come. According to Xinhua, China’s state news agency, on the evening of March 1, around 9:00 p.m. Beijing time, ten or more...

How Wrong is Your Time Zone?

Joshua Keating
Slate
All of China’s clocks are set to Beijing time. In defiance of the government, many members of the region’s Uighur minority observe their own time.

Conversation

02.13.14

Are Ethnic Tensions on the Rise in China?

Enze Han, James Palmer & more
On December 31, President Xi Jinping appeared on CCTV and extended his “New Year’s wishes to Chinese of all ethnic groups.” On January 15, Beijing officials detained Ilham Tohti, a leading Uighur economist and subsequently accused him of “separtist...

China Accuses Uighur Intellectual of Separatism for His Advocacy Work

Andrew Jacobs
New York Times
The news comes at a time of intensifying bloodshed in Xinjiang despite a growing security presence by Chinese personnel. 

Ilham Tohti’s Arrest Demonstrates China’s Renewed Hard Line on Xinjiang

Michael Clarke
Lowy Institute Interpreter
Economist Tohti was reportedly arrested after 30 police raided his apartment, confiscating documents, books and hard drives. He is most likely to be charged with ‘endangering state security,’ which carries heavy penalties including life imprisonment.

China’s Detention of Uighur Professor Ilham Tohti Worries U.S.

Julie Makinen
Los Angeles Times
The U.S. government and human rights activists are voicing concern about the detention of a professor who has been an outspoken advocate for China’s Uighur minority group.  

U.S. Frees Last of the Chinese Uighur Detainees From Guantánamo Bay

Charlie Savage
New York Times
In what the Pentagon called a “significant milestone” in the effort to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the military announced that the United States had transferred three Chinese detainees to Slovakia.

China’s State Media Calls for Strong Action on Tiananmen Attack

Reuters
Chinese state media demanded severe punishment on October 31 after the government blamed militants from restive Xinjiang for an attack in Tiananmen Square, as the exiled leader of the region’s Uighur minority called for an independent probe.&...

Chinese Police Hunt for Two Xinjiang Men After Tiananmen Crash

Tania Branigan
Guardian
Chinese police are hunting for two or more men from the troubled region of Xinjiang amid growing suspicion that a fatal car crash and explosion in Tiananmen Square on Monday was a suicide attack. 

Police Examine Possible Xinjiang Link in Deadly Tiananmen Crash

Andrew Jacobs
New York Times
After the car crash in Tiananmen Square, Chinese authorities have now named two suspects from Xinjiang, the troubled western region whose ethnic Uighur population has become increasingly disenchanted with Chinese policies.  

Media

10.31.13

Tiananmen Attack Spotlights China’s Beleaguered Uighurs

On October 28, a jeep plowed into a group of pedestrians and burst into flames on the avenue next to Tiananmen Square, the massive public square in Beijing that is the symbolic heart of the Chinese capital. According to Chinese state media reports,...

Chinese Police Shoot Dead Seven Uighurs in Kashgar

Qiao Long and Luisetta Mudie
Radio Free Asia
Four died after police in Yarkand county, which is administered by the Silk Road city of Kashgar, opened fire on a group of Uighurs in a private residence on October 3 after suspecting them of “illegal assembly,” the Munich-based World Uyghur...

Uighurs in China Say Bias Is Growing

Andrew Jacobs
New York Times
Discrimination in employment, common across western Xinjian, is one of the many indignities China’s 10 million Uighurs face in a society that increasingly casts them as untrustworthy and prone to religious extremism.  

Uighurs at Xinjiang Mosque Have to Face China Flag When Praying

Massoud Hayoun
Al Jazeera
Prominent Uighur rights advocate Ilham Tohti called the local government’s move an effort to “dilute the religious environment” in the area, where minority Uighurs often complain of ethnic and religious repression. 

Up to 12 Uyghurs Shot Dead in Raid on Xinjiang ‘Munitions Center’

Radio Free Asia
Authorities in China’s restive northwestern region of Xinjiang have shot dead up to a dozen Uyghurs and wounded 20 others in a raid on what they said was a “terrorist” facility, according to local officials and residents. 

Media

09.25.13

The Silk Road of Pop

Nick Holdstock
Most coverage of Xinjiang focuses on the tensions between Han and Uighur in the region, especially since the 2009 Urumqi riots. The Silk Road of Pop, a new documentary about Uighur music directed by Sameer Farooq, is a timely portrait of the rich...

Postcard

09.25.13

The Strangers

James Palmer
In the winter of 2009, I was spending my weekends in the northeast Chinese city of Tangshan, and eating most of my food from the far-western province of Xinjiang. Like many minorities, the Uighur, the native people of Xinjiang, have made their chief...

Settlers in Xinjiang: Circling the Wagons

Economist
A network of immigrant settlements dominated by Han Chinese are adding to ethnic tensions by excluding ethnic Uighurs from commercial opportunities. 

China Convicts And Sentences 20 Accused Of Militant Separatism In Restive Region

Chris Buckley
New York Times
“It’s not clear what is being alleged against these people beyond being members of a clandestine organization,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher based in Hong Kong for Human Rights Watch. 

Books

04.25.12

The Tree That Bleeds

Nick Holdstock
In 1997 a small town in a remote part of China was shaken by violent protests that led to the imposition of martial law. Some said it was a peaceful demonstration that was brutally suppressed by the government; others that it was an act of terrorism. When Nick Holdstock arrived in 2001, the town was still bitterly divided. The main resentment was between the Uighurs (an ethnic minority in the region) and the Han (the ethnic majority in China). While living in Xinjiang, Holdstock was confronted with the political, economic and religious sources of conflict between these different communities, which would later result in the terrible violence of July 2009, when hundreds died in further riots in the region. The Tree that Bleeds is a book about what happens when people stop believing their government will listen. —Luath Press Limited

Reports

07.01.10

“Justice, Justice”: The July 2009 Protests in Xinjiang, China

Amnesty International
On July 5, 2009, thousands of Chinese of Uighur ethnicity demonstrated in Urumqi, the regional capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR). In the aftermath of the Urumqi protests, the authorities detained more than 1,400 people. In this...

The Amazing Wanderer

Christian Caryl from New York Review of Books
1.I could tell you a lot of potentially useful things about Colin Thubron’s latest travel memoir—for example, that he’s a gifted linguist, a dogged reporter, and an elegant writer. For a start, though, perhaps it’s enough to point out that his shoes...

China’s Area of Darkness

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
The very first anonymous star on the CIA’s wall of honor at Langley, Virginia (the agency rarely identifies its dead heroes), refers to Douglas MacKiernan, the agency’s man in Urumqi, the capital of what is now called the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous...