Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:01AM
Xinjiang, or the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, constitutes one-sixth of China’s territory, and has the country’s richest oil and gas resources. It is also seen by China’s ruling class, and indeed is portrayed as such by the world’s media, as a “troubled” region with sensitive security issues. This “New Frontier”, a name acquired since the Qing dynasty’s conquest of the region, is at the top of China’s national security agenda. Military settlement has been deliberately enlarged over the years, and the armed forces are heavily deployed throughout the region. A series of anti-terrorist campaigns have been launched here as part of the US-led war on terror, while investment has been poured into a number of targeted cities in order to secure stability and maintain a “harmonious society”. Behind the alarming headlines that seek to convey a high level security threat posed by Uighur “separatism” and “splittism”, the realities of people's daily life in this vast region have remained unknown both to the Chinese populace and the outside world; what really goes on in Xinjiang has been a secret kept well away from public knowledge. * * * * * * * *Soon after I set foot in Xinjiang, I began to ask this question: How do you remain sane when the public speech is dominated by the state loudspeaker? During those months, I coped with the daily insanity by recording and documenting it...I witnessed that the lives of working-class people here have been shaped by economic scarcity and hardship, migration and political repression.* * * * * * * * "Do I have to speak Mandarin as well?" asks a tourist camel "Speak the nationally promoted Mandarin," says slogan, town centre, KashgarTen months after the 2009 riot, Kashgar was designated by the central government as a new Special Economic Zone. Since then, this Uighur-majority city near the border to Tajikistan has seen trade and investment come in from the much more developed eastern coast of China. The real agenda for developing Kashgar is clear to everyone: the aim is to stabilise the region. The first sign of this intention was the demolition of Kashgar’s old town, home to the most ancient Islamic communities in Xinjiang…"Be patriotic, be grateful, be hardworking; Help one another, be open and make progress," says slogan, Kashgar
"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind" -- George Orwell They've just sent Premier Wen Jiabao down to see us, the poor relatives, in the far west of China! Grandpa Wen smiled a lot in front of the cameras. He said promoting "leapfrog development" is the key to stability in this region and reiterated the state principle of "reform, development and security" for us. "We must step up efforts to build a more prosperous, harmonious and stable Xinjiang," Grandpa Wen said during his inspection tour of Xinjiang from the 3rd to the 5th of September. He urged the region to speed up construction of major bases for gas, oil, coal and wind energy...and he didn't forget to say that these infrastructure projects "should also focus on local people's livelihoods by increasing employment and income."
China National Petroleum Corp. completed construction of its Yining-Horgos natural gas pipeline, designed to move coal-based synthetic natural gas (syngas) from Yining, Xinjiang, to Zhejiang in the southeast coastal region. The company has consistently recruited workers from outside of Xinjiang, regardless of problems of unemployment among the local Uighur and other communities. It makes you wonder how the profits of the development of natural resources in Xinjiang can really benefit people in the region...
Urumqi hosting its second China-Eurasia Exposition: http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2012/09/04/xinjiang-struggle-to-revive-the-silk-road/#axzz26L0FXuAQ Heavy security deployment during the entire season, just like last year's Expo. "Let's make the event safe and fruitful," says Chinese official: http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=172126 Last year's Expo, in the eyes of a local photographer:
Chinese authorities ban fasting in Xinjiang: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2012/08/201281113456325751.html Ethnic tensions are rooted in inequality: http://theconversation.edu.au/inequality-fuels-tension-between-chinas-minority-uyghurs-and-hans-10967 Chinese authorities divide Muslim minorities: http://www.onislam.net/english/news/asia-pacific/460247-china-divides-muslim-minorities.html
What does the state-encouraged, state-planned Han-Chinese migration mean to those who have migrated to Xinjiang for work? I will tell you a story...I met two coal traders on the train and they introduced me to a coalmine labour contractor Ma Zhiyou based in Urumqi. Mr Ma was pleading help from everywhere to resolve what he described as a crisis situation. I met with him several times in Urumqi. He told me that he came from Shaanxi and had been in the recruitment business for years. He saw himself as a law-abiding contractor. He’d recruited eighty villagers from his home province Shaanxi and the neighbouring Shanxi province, to work in a state-owned coalmining enterprise, Shenhua Xinjiang Energy Company (Shenhua Xinjiang Nengyuan Gongsi), who haven’t paid the migrant workers their two-year wages. "In August 2008, we came to work for the Liudaowan section of Shenhua Xinjiang Energy Company (Shenhua Xinjiang Nengyuan Gongsi), in line with the government policy of 'Developing the West'. We became Liudaowan’s second exploration team. In order to fend off criticism from the local population about us only using Han-Chinese labour, I also recruited thirty local Uighur workers into our team. The company said to us that they will sign a contract with us once we started working. So we did. But the written contract was never given to us. We thought perhaps this was all based on mutual trust and didn’t make a fuss about it. It was assumed by all our workers that we will be paying them wages. We had also made the promise that we'd pay workers annual leave...But in April 2009, the company announced bankruptcy, and demanded that we withdrew our team. The company director and coalmine managers promised to compensate our losses and pay back all the money they owed us, but they never did. Therefore we couldn’t pay our workers. Our workers were protesting, and to avoid the politically sensitive relations between Han-Chinese and the Uighurs, I decided to take money out of my own pocket and paid the Uighur workers first." "In October 2009, the company resumed production and we were back to work again, being promised that we’ll get paid all the owed wages...Two months later, the company announced bankruptcy for the second time. We again suffered huge losses. We again owed wages to workers. We could only afford to pay them some living expenses out of our own pockets. Meanwhile, our team also worked for the same company's Manasilaobeiwan Coalmine that June. In November, our team was told to stop work due to weather conditions. The company said work will resume in 2010 when it became warmer. We waited till January 2011, but work did not resume. Then we heard that our work was to be transferred to another team. We suffered losses for the third time. We heard that we’re not the only contractor who had had this happened to us – some other contractors also cannot pay their workers. We tried to contact all departments but all they did was passing on responsibilities. We’ve written to the managing director but there was no reply. This company group is a well-known state enterprise. Why does it operate in such a way in Xinjiang? Is it because 'emperors are far away'? Like the folks would say, the leaders of the company reside in Western-style mansions and each of their meals costs a cow. Their salary is up to a few million per year..." For three years, Mr Ma had tried in vain to claim back the payment of 20 million yuan in total. The eighty migrant workers have not returned home for three years since then. I met with one of the migrant workers, Mr Sun Wangming. He was in his early forties but looked older and exhausted. He had come from a village in Yulin of Shaanxi province, and was recruited into Ma’s team along with fifty other peasants from Yulin in 2008. "From August 2008 to now, my fellow villagers and I have not received one yuan from the company. I couldn’t go home because they needed me to stay here to earn and support them. I’ve had no income, and so I borrowed money from moneylenders from Shaanxi, in order to support my family. I have a son and daughter at home. But as I borrowed more, I became more indebted. Now, three years on, I’m owing the moneylenders around 200,000 yuan. These bosses have no conscience at all -- it's been eaten by wolves. Do they know what it's like not to be able to return home for three years?" The migrants did not want to give up. Eighty of the workers went to visit the Managing Director of Shenhua Xinjiang Energy Company in September 2011, trying to claim back their wages. When they reached the company gate, they were immediately surrounded by a team of security guards, who called on more guards to come out. "When the total of the security guards reached around fifty, they circled us workers in the middle and started to beat us with their fists and batons. We couldn’t believe it – they actually were using physical force against us. They were not worried at all about our request for our two years of wages. Most of us were beaten and injured," said Mr Sun. "Following this assault, we went to report it at the local police station, but apart from taking a written statement, they did nothing. Then we went to the labour department in Urumqi, to inform them about what happened – they were already informed about our case of non-payment of wages before but did nothing. When they heard of the assault by the company’s security guards, they simply said to us: "You need to go somewhere else. We don’t deal with central government enterprises (yang-qi)." Mr Sun and other migrants have become Urumqi’s street cleaners, rubbish collectors and beggars. He earns 20-30 yuan a day collecting rubbish and sometimes takes up casual labour work on building sites. Today, they are still waiting for their owed wages and are staying six to a room in a dingy cheap hotel near Urumqi train station. Han-Chinese migrants in Urumqi Liu Bokun, former chairman of the board of directors of Xinjiang Shenhua Mining Co. Ltd. [the company in question in my previous post], was accused of corruption, bribery, and embezzlement of more than 30 million yuan (US$4.8 million) during his tenure of office, Jinghua.cn reported today. Liu has been brought up on public charges in the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court. A Hebei native, the 57-year-old Liu carried other titles such as the legal agent of the Xinjiang Shenhua Mining Co. Ltd; legal agent and general manager of Shenhua (Beijing) Remote Sensing Exploration Co. Ltd.; and legal agent of Hunan Provincial Zhongxunda Anti-counterfeiting Technology Co. Ltd. During his tenure of office from February 2005 to November 2008, Liu embezzled 27.62 million yuan in public funds to purchase villas and jade, and make investments for personal gain, prosecutors alleged. "As an official of state agencies, Liu took advantage of his position and power to illegally posses huge amount of public property, seek improper benefits for others, illegally accept huge amounts of other people's properties, and embezzle huge amounts of public funds for personal use. He must [accept] criminal responsibility for corruption, bribe-taking and embezzlement of public funds," prosecutors said in a statement. The case is currently under further investigation.
Nostalgia A song from winter Urumqi...
Murders conducted by the Chinese state: As reported on 25 August, Chinese authorities have shot dead at least 15 ethnic Uyghurs in a desert area in Xinjiang, accusing them of terrorism and illegal religious activity, in the latest violence to rock the troubled northwestern region of China, according to police sources. They were among a group of more than 20 Uyghurs surrounded and fired upon by police in a lightning raid in the Yilkiqi township in Kargilik (in Chinese, Yecheng) county in Kashgar prefecture. Yilkiqi township police chief Batur Osman said that they were conducting an anti-terror operation and “have successfully and completely destroying the terrorists." He refused to give to the press the number of Uyghurs killed in the shootout, saying many of them were from out of town and some were not carrying identification documents. In early August, police opened fire on a crowd of Uyghurs protesting prayer restrictions in Akyol town in Aksu prefecture ahead of the festival marking the end of Ramadan, killing at least three and injuring about 50 others. In June, in Hotan prefecture's Hanerik township, police fired on hundreds of Uyghurs protesting the arrest of a young religious leader and closure of a mosque. The authorities acknowledged that up to 15 people may have been killed.
How Chinese government dismantled Uighur internet: http://thediplomat.com/2014/07/how-china-dismantled-the-uyghur-internet/