Kashgar’s Old City: Landscape of Loss
The Chinese authorities in the far-west Xinjiang region of the people’s republic declared in early 2009 that 65,000 homes in Kashgar’s old city – an area that encompasses nearly eight square kilometres – were unfit for habitation due to poor drainage and concerns over potential collapse in the event of an earthquake. It is unclear exactly how much of the old city has been demolished since then; but it is known that a significant number of Uyghurs have been relocated to new apartment-blocks eight-to-nine kilometres from Kashgar’s centre, and find their new residencies conveniently fitted with the trappings of modern surveillance such as CCTV cameras.
The demolition of Kashgar’s old city is in itself a great loss to world heritage and a serious threat to the survival of what is most distinctive and precious about Uyghur material culture, architecture, and human community. What makes the process all the more insidious is that is being accompanied by a relentless marginalisation of Uyghurs in their own homeland as the demographic increase of the Chinese is reinforced by a tightening of political control.