Li, a petite, 22-year-old recent university graduate, is one of 1,800 volunteers recruited by the local Communist Party to hand out 100,000 of the stickers, organize public dances in parks and publicize the Chinese government’s efforts to ease tensions. “We must make the mutual hatred subside,” Li says. “We tell the public that without ethnic unity, nobody will get rich.”
The slogan on the yellow stickers is printed in both the Mandarin Chinese and Arabic languages — for the ethnic Chinese and Muslim, or Uighur (WEE-gur), factions that clashed in the streets with stones, knives and clubs on July 5 and for several days afterward, as years of simmering tensions erupted. Around town, numerous red cloth banners proclaim “Ethnic unity is good!” and “Resolutely oppose ethnic separatism!”
The propaganda is part of a broad effort by the Chinese government to move on after the latest, and most severe, spate of social unrest to hit the country during the past year and a half.
Yet many residents in Urumqi say they still fear violence could break out at any time. And even Li is among those questioning whether the continued tensions here reveal something more deeply wrong with her country.