Fear Stalks Chinese Residents in Kashgar After Attacks

Reuters reported on Wednesday on the fearful atmosphere among Kashgar’s Han Chinese community, following the series of attacks over the weekend in which 20 were killed.

“People here feel genuine terror, we definitely feel unsafe here,” said a 21-year-old man surnamed Huo from China’s southwestern Sichuan province.

“That scene was just too cruel. There were corpses, blood everywhere. No one dares to come out on the streets.”

About 200 enraged Chinese residents protested two nights ago, angered that “innocent lives were taken,” Huo said ….

The roads are now occupied by troops at security checkpoints and paramilitary officers are carrying batons and rifles as they walk the streets. Stores have kept their doors shut for days.

“In the past, we used to get along, but now I distrust them,” said a Kashgar Chinese shopkeeper, who declined to be identified, referring to the Uighurs and Han Chinese.

“The violent attacks targeted one whole race — the Han Chinese. How am I supposed to trust them now?”

Ethnic tension in the area is intense, following years of heavy-handed government policy aiming to lift Xinjiang’s economy while “binding it more closely” to Beijing. Dr Jason Abbott at Netherlands Aid explains:

Like Tibet much of the ethnic violence in recent years has been a result both of Beijing’s continuing hard-line approach towards ‘splitist’ tendencies and Uyghur opposition to the officially sanctioned, and indeed supported, migration of Han Chinese into the region. The latter is the result of the ‘Go West’, or ‘Chinese Western Development’ program that was launched by then-Premier Zhu Rhongji in 2000 in order to alleviate the growing economic division between the eastern maritime board and the rest of the country …. Massive infrastructure projects including highways and rail lines were largely designed according to Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights to “bind Xinjiang more closely to the rest of the PRC.” While the Chinese government denies that its policies are designed to promote demographic change the proportion of Xinjiang’s population that is Han Chinese has risen from approximately 5 per cent in the 1940s to around 40 per cent today.

… For the Uyghurs the continued inflow of ethnic Han Chinese threatens their distinct ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity and threatens to make them eventually a minority in the region as a whole.

The Associated Press described a bleak scene in Kashgar on Tuesday:

Units of the People’s Armed Police, some in riot suppression gear, stood in clumps at points throughout Kashgar, a Silk Road city of 600,000 people, about 80 percent of whom are members of Xinjiang’s native Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group.

Armored cars were parked along streets and a nighttime curfew was in force downtown, with people only allowed to cross the security cordon to leave for the suburbs ….

Pools of dried blood were visible Tuesday on the floor of the destroyed restaurant, its windows were shattered and its walls charred by fire.

According to Twitter posts by NBC News’ Adrienne Mong, however, the security presence was less conspicuous by Thursday, and there were a number of Han tourists on the streets:

Old Kashgar stunning, reminds me of Old Kabul w/wood and brick architecture. Lots of small tour groups of Han Chinese, esp from Jiangsu.

Found a Mao restaurant in Kashgar. One of few places open for lunch during Ramadan. yfrog.com/kfw2saaj

Only heavy security presence in Kashgar so far is on People’s Square: riot police w/full-on riot gear. All staring at great big Mao statue.