Urumqi (pronounced urum-CHEE) is supposed to be a testament to China’s unstoppable progress, the ability to take an ancient trading post of more than a dozen ethnic communities and erect over them a modern city of glittering towers dedicated to commerce and tourism.
Beneath the large red banners that blanket the city with slogans such as “Ethnic unity is a blessing and ethnic separatism is a curse,” though, relations between Uighurs and Hans are in tatters.
“It’s a mess here,” said Su Xiaomei, a Han woman who owns a small restaurant in central Urumqi. “Many Uighurs used to come to my restaurant, and I felt fine about that, but now I feel angry when I see them. . . . We try to stay as far away from them as possible.”
Uighurs complain that a police crackdown is targeting them with detention sweeps and intimidation.