Wang Lixiong first began to study Xinjiang in 1999, when he travelled there to prepare research for a book along the lines of Sky Burial. He was arrested for photocopying an internal publication, stamped as “secret,” on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (the notorious bingtuan), and attempted suicide in a high-security prison in Miquan before recanting and promising to collaborate in order to obtain his release. He recorded the incident in a short essay entitled Memories of Xinjiang (Xinjiang zhuiji), published in 2001 and reprinted as an introduction to the present volume. In prison, he shared a cell with a Han prisoner accused of economic crimes (“Uncle Chen”), and a Uyghur prisoner arrested in Beijing for organizing a demonstration protesting discrimination (Mokhtar), with whom he entered into a long and ongoing discussion on Xinjiang that forms the backbone of the book.
In the form of memories of prison conversations with Mokhtar, Wang Lixiong sketches out a preliminary analysis of the “Xinjiang problem,” which he believes has entered a phase of “Palestinization.” He begins with some anecdotal examples of what he calls the Han “colonial attitude,” citing the resistance to “Urumchi time” among local Hans, and their worship of Wang Zhen (1908-1993), Party secretary of Xinjiang from 1949 to 1955