Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Hm, hardly a riot in sight. Quiet. A little too quiet...
In fact, i was rather surprised that people in Urumqi seemed to be pretty mellowed out, 1 month after people were madly knocking on doors trying to identify the ethnicity of whoever answered in order to decide whether to bloodily bash their skulls apart or not.

The fact that i was able to visit the province at all felt like a slip up on the part of the authorities, and as such i felt like a privileged guest of honor. Not surprisingly, most travelers had thought or decided that the place was off limits, and thus i really was an exceptional visitor.

Xinjiang is pretty rad. You can go places where it really feels like China has disapeared, and that you've landed somewhere in the middle east. Not a "chinese" face to be seen. Lots of skewered lamb, mosques, scarf-veiled women, and fez-topped men.

i felt quite elated just to wander around, largely resisting the urge to snap photos. People getting on with their lives post-violence struck me as both necessary and courageous. Apparently the gov't released numbers were unsurprisingly lowballed. i hear roughly 250 Uighur and Han people were murdered in last months unfortunate riots, as caused by years of stewing resentment from gov't promoted Han immigration, and city infrastructure improvements which didn't affect the original minority group residents. Anyhow, for the 250 recently deceased, there's pbly 2500 very disturbed and angry and depressed city folk out there. No way of knowing if i saw any of them, but i was hanging out in the very limited areas where the riots took place.

Also, i should note that there is a LOT of army and police presence. Riot cops, riot gear, riot-proof vehicles abound. Soldiers stand on circus platforms under circus umbrellas to keep a serious eye over the people buying their groceries and buying lamb skewers. They get all annoyed when you point a camera at them, so you have to be sneaky about it. At any rate, no one grabbed or smashed my camera which was a relief.

Xinjiang is really cool. The city does look like it had a boom 15 years ago, 'cuase all there's lots of big not-so new buildings, mostly in the chinese majority parts of town. Pretty cosmo, but not a McDonalds or Starbucks to be seen, which was very refreshing. Nice markets, happening night market.

The city felt ... open. Xinjiang, i thank you for welcoming me.

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