August 27, 2005
50 Years of Xinjiang
October 1st should be a doozie this year here in Xinjiang, what with the simultaneously occuring anniversaries of the founding of the People's Republic of China (56 years ago) and the founding of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (50 years ago). My friends here in Korla tell me that there's usually a kick-ass military parade on October 1st, and that it should be even more impressive this year. I'm hoping for a Red Square-style deal, with thousands of goose-stepping soldiers, tanks, missiles, and fresh propaganda all over town.
I've recently noticed an increased presence of army/police officers (they walk around like police, but wear army uniforms) patrolling Korla, especially in the Uyghur areas near my new apartment. From what I read yesterday in China Daily, the authorities are afraid of a seperatist/terrorist attack ruining their carefully planned festivities. You can read the article below...
Xinjiang cracks down on terrorist threat
By Li Jing (China Daily)
China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has taken iron-fisted measures against the "three forces" of separatism, terrorism and religious extremism to protect its economic development, the region's top leader said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference to announce plans for the Autonomous Region's 50th anniversary, Wang Lequan, secretary of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Xinjiang Committee, said the regional government has "reliable" evidence showing a Uygur fugitive, who was freed on bail and fled to the United States, had close connections with foreign terrorists.
Rebiya Kadeer, once a wealthy businesswoman, was jailed for eight years in 1999 on charges of endangering national security by giving State secrets to foreigners. She was released on medical parole on March 17 this year.
According to Wang, after going abroad, Kadeer conspired with separatists and religious extremists "to plan terror attacks and jeopardize the region's 50th anniversary," which will be marked on National Day, October, but he did not say what evidence had been collected.
The regional government recently froze Kadeer's assets after learning she had attempted to get her children, who still live in China, to take her money out of the country, Wang said.
When the government investigated her business, it found she had evaded taxes, committed fraud and run up huge debts, he added.
"She had debts totalling 50 million yuan (US$6.2 million)," Wang said. "If she had successfully transferred all her money out of China, who would have paid her debts?
"No country should allow this, so the government must take tough action."
Wang also told reporters about the government crackdown on a separatist group headed by Abdullah Kurban, an ethnic Uygur.
Kurban was killed on Monday after he fired on police who were chasing him, Wang said.
"In the late 1990s, Kurban's terrorist group instigated many riots and other crimes," he said, adding that Kurban had been on the run for five years.
With Xinjiang bordering eight countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Russia, "the conditions are very complicated," Wang said, referring to the fight against terrorism.
"Terrorists are now hated and detested in Xinjiang," regional Chairman Ismail Tiliwaldi said. "They are like rats running onto the street, and everyone is screaming: 'Smash them!'"
As to how to celebrate the region's 50th anniversary, Wang said that rather than holding grand ceremonies, the government planned to address 10 major problems facing the region's residents.
The regional government and the central government will jointly invest 2 billion yuan (US$247 million) into building earthquake proof housing for thousands.
"We will also exempt 2.28 million poor students from tuition fees and provide subsidies for them," Wang said.
August 20, 2005
I've posted a new gallery of photos for your enjoyment, with one sub-gallery devoted to my recent trip to Altai and the other with more snapshots of my life in Korla (including the recent Abdulla Abdurehim concert). I just ask that if you have the time you try to leave a comment or two... either on the blog or in the photo gallery. I'm getting thousands of visitors every month, but relatively little feedback. Anyway, enjoy.
August 18, 2005
Most of the foreign teachers who were here for the previous six months have left now, with me and Lincoln the only remaining veterans. I've moved into my new apartment in the center of town, and my new roommate and fellow teacher, Daniel Peacock, has arrived via Scarborough in northern England. More on him later.
Anyway, I realise that I've been neglecting the blog lately, so here's a few tidbits and updates on what I've been up to for those of you who care:
Altai, Pt. 2
Finding myself with a limited summer schedule, I recently made another trip up to the Altai Region. I had been planning to visit Hemu again, in which I only spent about 24 hours on my previous trip. When I got up near Kanas Lake, however, I found that both the weather was awful (torrential downpours) and that the road to Hemu was out of service. Something about paving it for tourists... although why they chose to do this at the height of tourist season is beyond me. Anyway, I wasn't sure what I was going to do at that point, but when I headed down out of the mountains I found that the weather was a bit more pleasant. I ended up spending a few days in the small village of Hongqi in the Chonghuer Valley, about 45 minutes north of Buerjin. It was damn cheap (¥70 for two nights and four meals, or about $9.00) and by renting someone's bicycle I was able to get around and take some photos. Then, before heading back down to Korla I took a day trip up to the Kazakh border checkpoint at Jimunai. I walked along the fence that seperates China from Kazakhstan and ended up meeting a bunch of Russians from Kazakhstan who were coming to Xinjiang as tourists. Unfortunately, the border guards wouldn't let me cross over for a walk around... although they were very interested in my American passport, which they had never seen before.
Abdulla Abdurehim: Live in Concert!
One thing I hadn't done yet in Korla was go to a rockin' concert. I've seen plenty of them on the VCD's that everyone likes to watch on long bus trips... but as the Chinese tend to like romantic pop-crap I haven't been dying to shell out the cash. That all changed, however, when I started seeing posters for an August 15th concert by the King of Uyghur Pop, Abdulla Abdurehim. As it was only ¥25 (about $3.00) for a ticket and it was also my colleague Carrie's last night in Korla, I picked up some tickets in the Uyghur market. Thankfully, the concert rocked and the Uyghur audience was totally psyched. Abdurehim's little brother, who is younger and more energetic, also sang some songs that brought the house down. At the end, everyone was invited out onto the floor to dance in a circle around Abdurehim, from which he had to escape by force. A good time was had by all.
Pictures of these adventures and more of my life in Korla will be posted ASAP!
August 05, 2005
This morning when I came into work, I was told by Circle English's secretaries of a chilling story in today's newspaper. Supposedly, four children between the ages of 10 and 12 years-old have gone missing over the past month here in Korla. In a city where crime seems to be almost non-existent (or at least invisible), the news has been cause for no small amount of speculation. Today's news was of the horrible discovery in Yanqi, an hour's drive northeast of Korla, of two of the children's bodies beneath a bridge. The worst part: the bodies were eye-less and kidney-less... likely victims of one of the modern world's worst crimes, organ harvesting.
Suffice to say, after my class this morning was over, the students waited in the school's office for their parents to pick them up, rather than down on the street.
August 03, 2005
The End of an Era?
A few days back, I couldn't have been happier. Here's the scene: I had just completed a delicious Fei Niu Huo Guo (Beef Hot Pot) going-away dinner for my friends, Will & Zoe. I was driving my motorcycle back to their place for some movie viewing... Rocky IV & V, to be exact. My belly was full and my heart was carefree. And then... I couldn't have been on the road for more than 30-seconds when I noticed a phalanx of traffic cops in blinking-LED vests up ahead. Without enough time to veer off in another direction, I was forced to drive right by them. Unsurprisingly, I was promptly motioned over to the side of the road. Crap!
Anyway, after a one-sided discussion (OK, forceful reprimand) they ended up driving away my motorcycle to an undisclosed secure location and giving me a ticket for ¥2,000...which, considering that I bought the bike for only ¥5,000, is a hellofalotta' dough. Now, according to who you ask here in Korla, I'll probably be able to negotiate the fine down to ¥200-¥400, but that remains to be seen. Being that I'm a foreigner, the police can basically do whatever they want with me. I'm working the inside angle, though... one of the police bosses is supposedly friends with a Chinese colleague of mine.
Anyway, if I'm lucky I'll get back my motouche (motorcycle) without a lot of hassle. It's almost certainly going to be the end of my riding days, however... that is, unless someone can figure out how to get me a license. I figure I'm better off just selling the damned thing and cutting my losses before I'm too far behind. Sigh.
It was fun while it lasted.