Although it is rapidly being bulldozed in the name of modernization, Old Kashgar and its ancient dusty warrens remain the heart of Uighur culture and a beguiling draw for tourists. To China’s leadership, however, the city is also an incubator for those seeking to create a Uighur homeland by the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and a handful of other predominantly Muslim countries whose names end with “stan.”
This time around, Kashgar has been relatively quiet. During the turmoil in Urumqi, a crowd of 200 people tried to protest outside the city’s Id Kah Mosque, the largest in China, and were quickly dispersed by the police.
But while journalists in Urumqi can roam with relative freedom, the few foreign reporters who made it to Kashgar were promptly hustled out of town.
“The situation may look calm now, but it could change at any second,” a local government official told Mark MacKinnon, a writer for The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, as he and his colleagues were sent to the airport.