Uighur Dilemma (2009): Ever since the violence between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese, a fear of fanaticism has taken hold. Is the government’s decision to demolish the Uighur area Kashgar really due to an earthquake threat?
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Kashgar is a cultural icon. Parts of the city have stood for 2000 years and within its labyrinth, Uighur traditions are unchanged. ‘We live as we did in the old times’ says Tursun, a 6 generation pot thrower. But times are changing. Beijing’s deputy mayor has announced that destruction of the old town is the only way to prepare for an earthquake threat. ‘I spent my whole childhood in this place. If they destroy it, we can’t continue our business’ cries one of Kashgar’s many blacksmiths. Many Uighur’s are convinced that the authorities ‘never tell the truth’. Yet some are happy to be rehoused in government buildings, admitting that their homes are dangerous. Kashgar is of great strategic value for China – if small separatist groups here link with Taliban insurgents across the border, there could be a full-scale armed conflict in Western China. ‘If a handful of religious extremists, or international terrorists appear, we will crack down on them immediately’ says Beijing’s deputy mayor. His plan could rebuild a sour relationship. Or give the Uighurs a new reason to throw off Chinese occupation of their homeland.
ABC Australia – Ref. 4499
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