the porous city



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The margins of China
Kashgar is on the western edge of China. Historically it's been home to the Uighurs, a central Asian people, with everything that implies: Islam, kebabs, wonderful hospitality, and totally unplacable physiognomy (I've seen Uighurs with facial features that could be at home anywhere between Paris and Beijing.) Now, as far as Beijing is concerned, it's another potential Tibet - a troublesome ethnic minority demanding an unacceptable degree of autonomy.

Met Gezet on my way to the Sunday market. Never quite figured out his age but I'll guess seventeen. He explained that he was studying English, and invited me to his house, where his mother cooked us lunch. He was quite keen on having me join his English class, so I promised to show up the next night for it.

When I did, a nervous-seeming Uighur man came into the classroom and asked what I was doing there. Turns out that the Chinese police don't like having foreigners in Uighur English classes. Instead I spent an hour talking to a couple of young Uighurs outside the classroom, both studying English. They told me Uighurs would rather study English than Chinese; the young man confided that he didn't like the Chinese much.

A friend of mine met a young Uighur man in Turpan who said that the Uighurs would soon rise up against the Chinese. He claimed that there'd already been a clash between Uighur men and Chinese soldiers northeast of Kashgar, and that 200-300 Uighur men had been killed. When I asked Uighur people whether they heard about this, they changed the subject - the closest I got is that someone said he'd heard "a little" about it. It's plausible though; the call to prayer is outlawed due to a previous Uighur uprising.

last timestamped: 11:59:07 02-Jun-2008
in categories:Travel/Vagabond'08





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