November 30, 2005
Michael was here!
Never mind the fact that I haven't worked at NBC News for 15 months. The New York Times just doesn't seem to be able to get enough of my pretty face. For the third time now, I've been featured in the background of a photo accompanying an article about NBC News. The first time was flattering and the second time was a surprise... but come on! Three times?
I'm going to have to talk to this Jacques Steinberg fellow. (And by the way, who spells their name J-A-C-Q-U-E-S but pronounces it Jack? That's just confusing, if you ask me.) What is his fascination with me?
I've included below the full text of the article , for those who care. If you must know, my old boss, Steve Capus, has been named the for-real president of NBC News after a few months of pretending. Congrats to you, Steve. Now, about that job in Beijing...
NBC Names Ex-Producer to Head News Unit
November 30, 2005
By JACQUES STEINBERG
Nearly a year after shepherding the handoff from Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams as the executive producer of "NBC Nightly News," Steve Capus was promoted yesterday to president of the network's news division.
The appointment, which was announced by Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal Television Group, caps a meteoric year for Mr. Capus, 42, who was promoted to senior vice president of the news division in June and acting president in September.
Mr. Capus assumes his job, in which he will oversee not only NBC News but also the MSNBC cable channel and Web site, at a moment of rapid transformation in broadcast news and in television over all. As its flagship broadcast, "Nightly News," steadily loses viewers because of other electronic media and the changing patterns of people's lives, NBC News, like other news divisions, has been forced to adapt.
Its most notable innovation so far was announced by Mr. Capus earlier this month: NBC became the first broadcast network to make its early-evening newscast available later each night, at no charge, on the Internet. Soon, the network expects to offer similar online versions of "Today" and "Meet the Press," and is already providing news updates to cellphone customers of Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, among others.
In an interview yesterday, Mr. Zucker said, "There's no question the biggest priority for Steve in the coming two years is the evolution of news gathering and delivery of news, via new models."
Mr. Capus's appointment was announced on a day with two other major developments related to the networks' efforts to lure viewers.
The new president of CBS News, Sean McManus, announced that he was replacing the executive producer of the network's evening newscast, Jim Murphy, with Rome Hartman, a veteran producer who has worked on "60 Minutes" for more than a decade.
The selection of Mr. Hartman provides the strongest indication yet that in rethinking the "CBS Evening News," Mr. McManus intends it to have a heavy dose of hard news. Before Mr. McManus's appointment, Leslie Moonves, chairman of CBS, had spoken openly of his desire that the network's flagship newscast be more entertaining, and had even consulted with executives from the entertainment side of the company on its recasting.
In an interview, Mr. Hartman, 50, said that he, like his counterparts at the other broadcast networks, would continue to strive "to find the right balance between hard news and feature stories." Nonetheless, he promised that "everyone will be clothed" - a reference to a recent interview with Mr. Moonves in The New York Times Magazine in which he waxed rhapsodic about "Naked News," a broadcast available on the Web and on pay-per-view.
Meanwhile, just before 1 a.m. on the East Coast, ABC broadcast the first installment of "Nightline" since the departure of its founding anchor, Ted Koppel, last week. The new program, led by an ensemble of anchors, performed well, with a rating of 3.6, representing a 6 percent increase over its average rating thus far in November, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen Media Research that were released by ABC. (Each ratings point represents about 1.1 million homes.)
But as the new leader of NBC News, Mr. Capus enjoys one luxury that his counterparts at ABC and CBS do not: his programs on weekday mornings ("Today"), in the early evening and on Sunday mornings ("Meet the Press") all win their time slots decisively.
Which is not to say that he does not have cause for concern. For example, while "NBC Nightly News" has recently widened its lead over "World News Tonight" on ABC, both programs have lost several hundred thousand viewers in the television season that began in September, as compared to the same period a year ago. While some of the falloff could be attributed to waning interest since last year's presidential election, Mr. Capus said yesterday that there were surely other dynamics at work.
"We would all be foolish to ignore that number about how much we're off," Mr. Capus said. "We all have to figure out new ways to grow the audience. That's why we're putting so much emphasis on these new platforms. It gives us a whole new group of audience members that weren't there before necessarily, and don't sit down to watch the 'Nightly News' at 6:30 every night."
posted November 30, 2005 at 04:08 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (16)
November 29, 2005
Whoa! Am I seeing things? That's what I was saying to myself yesterday while strolling around the supermarket here in Korla. Are those Snickers I see? Why, yes! And wait, are those M&M's... and even Peanut M&M's? Am I hallucinating? Will you look at that! Even the cats and dogs have lucked out. If it ain't Whiskas and Purina brand pet food!
It seems that an invasion of western brands has descended upon our fair city of Korla. Goods that were previously only available in Urumqi or far-flung Lanzhou have somehow landed on our local shelves. I'm not complaining... far from it! But having lived here for almost a year now, I feel it's safe to say: Korla has arrived.
posted November 29, 2005 at 04:03 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (21)
November 25, 2005
Time to break out the champagne. I didn't think we could do it, but Xinjiang has just been named "the most-afflicted area in the country" (in terms of bird flu) by China Daily. We were awarded the top title after Xinjiang's seventh outbreak in ten days was announced to have struck a farm outside of Turpan. That's gotta be some kind of record! I'm going to have to start taking bets on when Korla's first confirmed H5N1 sighting will happen. My money is on the first of December.
You can read the China Daily article below.
XINJIANG REPORTS 7TH OUTBREAK IN 10 DAYS
by Zhao Huanxin
25 November 2005
Northwest China yesterday reported an outbreak of bird flu - the seventh in less than 10 days - as the World Health Organization (WHO) said it would send a team to an eastern Chinese province where a woman was confirmed killed by the infection.
The latest outbreak struck a family farm in Turpan city of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and killed 11 birds on November 17.
The deaths were caused by the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday, citing test results from the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory.
The seven outbreaks reported since November 15 make Xinjiang the most-afflicted area in the country, experts said.
Three of the outbreaks occurred in or around Urumqi, the regional capital, according to the ministry's website.
The ministry and the local government were handling the latest outbreak in accordance with emergency plans, officials said.
Veterinary workers culled 5,180 poultry within a 3-kilometre radius of the outbreak site in line with standard practice, the ministry said in a statement.
The WHO, in response to Wednesday's report that a second person had died of H5N1 in Anhui Province, yesterday said the organization would most likely send an investigation team there next week.
The WHO has already secured permission to investigate the first human death in the province a 24-year-old woman farmer in Zongyang County earlier this month.
"Now that the second case occurred, it's very likely this will be also part of the Anhui mission," Roy Wadia, a WHO spokesman, said last night.
The second human victim of bird flu in Anhui was a 35-year-old woman farmer.
Meanwhile, health authorities yesterday intensified an information campaign on prevention of human infections, using prime-time TV slots and major newspapers urging people to maintain a hygienic and healthy lifestyle; and process poultry products with caution.
The ministry has also published an updated version of Diagnosis and Treatment Guidelines for Human Infection by Avian Influenza, detailing the sources, symptoms, prevention and treatment for health workers.
In a related development, the United Nations said on Wednesday that it supports China's massive animal vaccination programme to combat bird flu, but cautioned that quality control on vaccines must be assured.
Joseph Domenech, chief veterinary officer of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said agency officials would be among those visiting Chinese laboratories, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
In a circular issued on Wednesday, the State Council China's cabinet asked local governments to support and supervise designated vaccine producers, and strike hard at those manufacturing fakes.
In Harbin, capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, where water supply has been cut off since midnight Tuesday, production of vaccines has not been affected, said Han Biao, an executive with the First Biological Products Plant of the Harbin Pharmaceuticals Group.
The plant, one of the nine designated vaccine producers in China, produces 60 per cent of doses used in the country, Xinhua News Agency reported.
posted November 25, 2005 at 04:18 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (20)
November 24, 2005
I wanted to make sure that all of you who are eating turkey today give thanks for what you have (and what I don't here in Xinjiang). Namely, a big roasted turkey. And stuffing. And lots and lots of delicious pie.
Giving thanks for other things, like your health, is optional.
posted November 24, 2005 at 02:34 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (23)
November 23, 2005
Some of you may remember that back in July I was thinking of taking a different English teaching job in Jilin City (in Jilin Province). Well, it's a good thing I didn't take that job. Last week there was a huge chemical plant explosion in Jilin and the whole city was pretty much evacuated. Now comes news that Harbin, a city of 10 million people located downstream on the Songhua River, has completely shut down it's water system. No word of when the taps will be turned on again... something about toxic pollution and whatnot. So, I supposed this means that basically everyone on the Songhua River is f%$@#%!
I'm happy not to be living there. Xinjiang is feeling pretty comfortable right about now.
posted November 23, 2005 at 04:56 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (30)
November 22, 2005
Winter is upon Korla. This morning it snowed here for the first time this season. Brrr.
posted November 22, 2005 at 01:27 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (16)
November 21, 2005
Beijing is Frustrating
posted November 21, 2005 at 07:55 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (15)
November 19, 2005
Meanwhile, back in Canada...
This is a guest entry written by my roomate, Dominic Gagnon. Although I've lived fairly close to Québec for the greater part of my life, Dominic is perhaps the first separatist I've actually met. (In China, nonetheless.) The following views are his and his alone. Read with a Québec accent to get the full effect.
Two referendums were held over the last 25 years in Québec for the province to become independent from Canada. In the last referendum, in 1995, 49.4% of Québécois voted for separation. After ten years of détente, 2005 will be remembered as the year when things started to heat up once again.
Last winter, vast student demonstrations in Montreal showed that the younger generations are embracing the separatist political cause. In June, the Québec national holiday had political overtones not seen in many years. All signs also show that immigrants and English speakers are now getting less reluctant to the idea of Québec as an independent, French-speaking nation.
As I write, polls show support for independence between 50% and 54%. Across Québec, never has the conviction been so strong that sovereignty will soon be reality.
In less than two years there will be a new provincial election in Québec, and the separatist Parti Québécois is expected to take back power after having lost in 2003. The Canadian people, the people of Québec, and politicians on both sides of the issue are tired of fighting. All signs point to a third referendum on independence in 2008, and this time it may pass.
Now, why should Québec become a country? Assimilation is running high in English Canada, and French communities outside Québec have seen their populations shrinking year by year. Within Québec, people also fear that their weight in the Canadian federal system is diminishing. A century ago, Québec represented 35% of the Canadian population - a figure that now stands at only 23%. Québécois are also concerned about federal intrusion into matters that solely concern Québec. We would prefer to pay all of our taxes to Québec City rather than sending 50% to Ottawa.
Of course, nationalism - though a soft one - plays perhaps the biggest role in the quest for independence. Recent generations in Québec consider themselves as Québécois first, and only as Canadian when it comes to the money they use or their passports. Likewise, our arts, culture, and media are completely Québécois. (In Québec, as opposed to the rest of Canada, even American movies and television shows are translated into the Québec dialect.)
How the world community will react to Québec's independence in 2008 is still to be seen, but the democratic outcome will surely send a strong signal to those all around the world wishing for their people to be free.
A Québécois teaching in China
19 Novembre 2005
posted November 19, 2005 at 10:05 AM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (31)
November 15, 2005
Bird Flu in Xinjiang
News reached me today via a Hong Kong newspaper that H5N1, also know as bird flu, has finally made its way here to Xinjiang. I'm glad, too, because I was thinking that - like most things that visits China - bird flu might have decided that Xinjiang just wasn't worth the time and effort. Thanks, bird flu!
According to the article, the affected areas are around Urumqi and Kashgar. Assuming that the outbreaks in both cities are in some way related, I'm taking the non-medically educated guess that a few chickens in Korla are probably carriers as well. (Korla lies halfway between Urumqi and Kashgar on the major highway.) Only time will tell. Luckily, Xinjiang officials are already hard at work figuring out who's to blame:
In light of the current epidemic situation, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional People's Government has identified some mistakes. It is now determining who shall be responsible for the incident.You can read the full article below.
Bird flu outbreak suspected in China's Xinjiang
by Hu Yang
Ta Kung Pao (HK)
14 November 2005
[Urumqi, 13 November] Epidemic outbreaks of suspected bird flu have occurred in Urumqi county, Urumqi city and in Zepu county, Kashgar prefecture. The authorities in Xinjiang have begun the work of epidemic prevention and treatment. Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture arrived at Urumqi on 12 November. They have begun inspecting the epidemic situation in Urumqi. On the same day, they already sent the collected samples to Beijing for testing and confirmation. Is it a case of highly pathogenic avian flu The result of the test will be known soon.
As of this afternoon, more than 200,000 fowl within a 5 km radius of the affected areas have been slaughtered. Police and militia personnel are performing their duties on the roads leading to the epidemic areas. They are disinfecting all passing vehicles.
The epidemic was discovered during a general inspection. On the afternoon of 11 November, personnel from the animal husbandry department in Xinjiang carried out a general inspection in Anningqu township, Urumqi county - a suburban area in Urumqi city. It was discovered that among 5,200 chickens raised by Zheng Ming - a poultry raiser in Beidalu village, Anningqu township - 1,400 died unexpectedly. Zheng Ming purchased the chicks from Tiankang company in Xinjiang on 22 September and 13 October respectively. The poultry were inoculated according to the immunization procedures on 28 September and 19 October respectively. On 8 November, Zheng Ming inoculated another batch of 2,300 50-day old chickens that he purchased on 22 September. On 11 November, he discovered that 1,400 chickens in the two roadside chicken coops were dead.
Veterinaries from Urumqi city and Urumqi county rushed to the site. The initial diagnosis was suspected bird flu. Personnel from the agriculture and animal husbandry bureau, the public health bureau, and the disease prevention and control centre in Urumqi city immediately went there to carry out the work of prevention and treatment as well as immunization.
Urumqi city later sent out militia and police personnel to carry out inspections on the roads leading to the epidemic areas. All passing vehicles should be disinfected.
Vice-Chairman Qian Zhi of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional People's Government and Secretary Yang Gang of Urumqi city also went there to direct the work. The animal husbandry department of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional People's Government set up a command centre for the prevention and treatment of the major animal epidemic situation. Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture will go to Xinjiang to provide guidance on immunization.
Urumqi county - a place where the epidemic situation has occurred - is located in an area between Urumqi city and Changji prefecture. People in this area usually raise domestic fowl in a scattered form. The number of poultry raised by each household there varies from several thousands to tens of thousands. About 70 per cent of chicks come from chicken farms in Changji prefecture.
Relevant departments said that an inspection will be carried out on domestic fowl and pigeons raised in a scattered form. Compulsory immunization is required for each and every household.
The government will conduct an investigation into the quality of the vaccine. The government said that it will conduct an investigation into the source and the quality of vaccine doses. Efforts should be made to consolidate the supply of vaccine doses. All departments should immediately stop purchasing vaccine doses through illegal channels.
This reporter also has learned that a large number of poultry died in Zepu county, Kashgar prefecture. Local veterinaries determined that it was a suspected case of bird flu. Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture went to Zepu county today to provide guidance in prevention and treatment as well as to collect samples.
In light of the current epidemic situation, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional People's Government has identified some mistakes. It is now determining who shall be responsible for the incident.
A local animal husbandry expert said that eight countries neighbouring Xinjiang are suffering from a severe case of bird flu. In addition, bird flu also has occurred in Inner Mongolia, Qinghai and Gansu. Under this situation, it is a tough job for Xinjiang to deal with the epidemic situation.
Source: Ta Kung Pao website, Hong Kong, in Chinese. 14 November 2005.
posted November 15, 2005 at 03:46 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (18)
November 12, 2005
And the winner is...
Rather than choosing just a single mascot - or two (like Athens), or three (like Sydney) - Beijing has gone the extra mile by choosing five. Yes, five mascots! From left to right they are: Beibei the Fish, Jingjing the Panda, Huanhuan the Olympic Flame, Yingying the Tibetan Antelope, and Nini the Swallow. If you put all their names together they spell "Beijing huanying ni", or "Beijing welcomes you".
I was a bit disappointed when I saw them at first. Stupid cartoons! But hey, it could have been worse... take a look at all of the previous Olympic mascots.
posted November 12, 2005 at 01:21 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (16)
November 11, 2005
A Thousand Days
Well, it's official. The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing are only 1,000 days away! Can you feel the excitement? Tonight, in a ceremony that will be broadcast live on CCTV, the official mascot for the games will be revealed. I'm betting pretty heavily on a panda, but who knows? People in Xinjiang would be pretty psyched if it turns out to be the Monkey King.
A newspaper in Beijing is trying to prepare residents there for the influx of foreign visitors with it's plan to teach 1,000 English sentences over the next 1,000 days.
From the official website of the Beijing Olympics:
"The First," a Beijing-based newspaper dedicated to sports and the Olympic Movement, will launch its "learn 1,000 English Sentences in 1,000 Days" campaign in collaboration with an agency under the Beijing Municipal Government to promote Beijing residents' enthusiasm to learn foreign languages, especially English. From November 12 till the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games on August 8, 2008, the newspaper will carry one frequently-used English sentence every day on its front page.
I'll be sure to post a photo of the mascot as soon as possible.
posted November 11, 2005 at 01:42 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (16)
November 08, 2005
US-Muslim Terror in China?
The Daily Times, a Pakistani newspaper, is reporting on its website that China has requested extreme vigilance on the part of Pakistani authorities in preventing a possible terrorist attack in China. The site reports that the attack could come in as little as a "few days" time. Strangely (at least it seems strange to me), the article goes on to say that the attack is being supported by an unnamed financing source in the US. I wonder if this might be a reference to Rebiya Kadeer (pictured), a Uyghur "seperatist" who the Chinese have been complaining about constantly since her release and consequent move to the States earlier this year. Of course, if Chinese terror warnings are as reliable as what we get in the US, there's probably not much to worry about. You can read the full article below.
China asks Pakistan to probe terror threat
Daily Times of Pakistan
8 November 2005
KARACHI, PAKISTAN. The Chinese government has requested the government of Pakistan to investigate and share information on a recent threat of terrorist attacks on tourist spots in Chinese-administrated Hong Kong and Midland [Mainland] China, well placed sources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad apprised Daily Times on Monday [7 November].
In an official request through its embassy in Islamabad, the Chinese government said that it had information that an Islamist terrorism network in China was planning coordinated attacks on hotels and other tourist spots in Hong Kong and Midland China with the help and backing of some US financiers.
The request, sources said, detailed the name of a person who was allegedly planning and coordinating the attacks.
The request was received on 31 October by the Chinese consulate in Karachi in the form of a fax message naming a man suspected of planning the attacks in a "few days". The fax message did not, however, mention how the attack could take place but stated that there was a fear that it might be in the form of bombings at hotels and tourists resorts.
While the Chinese government had requested an exchange of investigative information, ministry sources said it did not say whether the suspect was a Pakistani or could be present in Pakistan. "But, our Chinese friends have requested strict vigilance at our international airports and entry and exit points," sources added.
Quoting the request, ministry sources said that the Chinese government had indicated that it had put on high alert its international airports, seaport and land entry and exit points after the fax message was received on 31 October.
In the backdrop of this communication, just a day before the Chinese government's fax was received in Islamabad, on 30 September, a group named the World Uighur Congress issued a strong anti-China statement that was also posted on the website "Islam Online".
The statement came on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Communist Party's rule over Xinjiang, which was previously an independent nation known as East Turkestan. This is a remote region that Muslim Uighur militants, dubbed terrorists or separatists by Beijing, have been struggling for decades to make independent. Xinjiang was formally established on 1 October 1995.
The World Uighur Congress statement said that: "China's crushing campaign of religious oppression and cultural assimilation against its Muslim Uighur minority, in the name of terror-combat and anti-separatism, risks turn[ing] the region into a 'time bomb'."
The Uighurs are a Turkish-speaking minority of eight million whose traditional homeland lies in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in north-west China. Xinjiang has been autonomous since 1955 and is viewed by Beijing as an invaluable asset because of its crucial strategic location near Central Asia and its large oil and gas reserves.
Source: Daily Times website, Lahore, 8 November 05
posted November 08, 2005 at 02:35 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (26)
November 06, 2005
The CCP's Xinjiang
The CCP Central Committee has released an article (which came to me translated into English via BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific) commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The article was written by Wang Lequan, a member of the politburo of CCP Central Committee and the secretary of Xinjiang's Communist Party Committee. It's a fun read - as CCP white papers generally are - both for it's boisterously positive appraisal of the past fifty years here in Xinjiang and it's delightful use of indecipherable party-speak. You can read the full text below, but I'll list some of the highlights first, for all you lazy folks.
First of all, the title of the article is a hoot:
Unswervingly writing a brilliant new chapter in the common prosperity and development of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party
Hilarious excerpts include:
Society is stable, all ethnic groups are united.... All ethnic groups enjoy their lives and all causes are prosperous.
We have consistently carried out a comprehensive opening up strategy that is characterized by "uniting the east, going out from the west, coming in from the west, and going out to the east" and that unites "bringing in" with "going out".
The atmosphere has become thick with the practice of trust among ethnic groups, respect for one another, mutual learning, mutual support, and mutual understanding. In this way, exemplary figures who excel at strengthening ethnic unity have emerged in wave upon wave. This activity has effectively accelerated the cause of ethnic unity and ethnic progress and has led to an excellent situation in which all ethnic groups breathe the same breath, share one fate, are heart to heart, struggle side by side, and seek common prosperity and development.
Practice shows that our party's polices on ethnic affairs and religious affairs, as well as the self-governance system for minority ethnic areas, are completely correct; suit the actual situation in China; meet the fundamental interests of all ethnic groups in our country; are important groundwork and an important guarantee for all ethnic groups uniting as one, struggling to seek common prosperity, and common development; and are very vigorous.
We should firmly crack down on separatist activities by the "three forces" and firmly gain the upper hand in the struggle against separatism.... We should strengthen the management of religious affairs in accordance with the law, focus on the enhancement of grassroots organization construction, and strengthen the reeducation campaign on the struggle against separatism in the field of ideology. We should meticulously and satisfactorily handle hot issues and difficult issues and appropriately resolve internal-contradictions among the people.
We should profoundly carry out ideological and political education and guide the masses to correctly analyse the situation, correctly grasp the actual situation of the autonomous region, correctly understand the benefits-oriented relationship among all sectors, raise their ideological and political conscientiousness, strengthen the concept of the overall situation, and work in one mind in struggling for accelerating economic and social development.
You can continue below if you'd like to read the whole article.
Unswervingly writing a brilliant new chapter in the common prosperity and development of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region
The day 1 October 2005 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Over the past 50 years, the people of all ethnic groups in this region have united, struggled, and made brilliant achievements for the cause of socialist revolution and the cause of construction under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] and under the brilliance of the party's self-governance policy for the autonomous region. Xinjiang has seen earthshaking changes and has demonstrated its vigour and liveliness with which the region walks towards modernization, towards the world, and towards the future.
Economic, industrial progress
In 1949, Xinjiang was peacefully liberated. Under the leadership of the CCP, Xinjiang has undergone profound social changes and has entered an epoch-making period in the history of its development. On 1 October 1955, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region was founded, creating a new chapter in the history of Xinjiang's development. Over the past 50-plus years, all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have undergone democratic reform under the leadership of the CCP, have achieved political equality among all ethnic groups, and have created and developed a socialist ethnic relationship characterized by equality, unity, reciprocal assistance, and harmony. All ethnic groups in Xinjiang have adhered to self-governance in minority ethnic areas, have conducted socialist revolution and construction, and have achieved great leaps in social and historical development. Since the third plenary session of the 11th CCP Central Committee, cadres and the masses of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have held high the great banner of Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thinking of the "Three representations," [Chinese: san ge dai biao; on the importance of the communist party in modernizing the nation - representing the demands for the development of advanced social productive forces, the direction of advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the greatest majority of the people] have consistently regarded economic construction as the central task and have continuously strengthened reform and opening up. The economy of the autonomous region has developed in a sustainable, rapid, and healthy manner. The appearance of urban and rural areas has changed rapidly. Society is stable, all ethnic groups are united, and border defence is reinforced. All ethnic groups enjoy their lives and all causes are prosperous.
The national economy has developed in a sustainable and rapid manner and the people's standard of living has been noticeably improved. In 2004, the GDP for this autonomous region was RMB 220bn, 42 times higher than in 1955. The total revenues for this autonomous region were RMB 32.9bn. Local general budget revenues were RMB 15.5bn, 91 times higher than in 1955. Agricultural production has developed continuously. The output of major agricultural products has largely increased. Total production value for the agricultural industry in 2004 exceeded RMB 75bn, 17 times higher than in 1955. Total output of grain was 8.28m tons, up nearly six times over 1955. Total cotton output was 1.75m tons, up nearly 70 times compared with 1955. Xinjiang has become the largest production base for commodity cotton in China. Modern animal husbandry industry has developed in a steady manner. This industry accounts for an increasing percentage of agriculture production in this autonomous region. Total area for forests, fruit, and gardening projects with Tarim Basin as an important production base exceed 10 million mu. This autonomous region contains a zone of high-quality forest products and fruit with unique characteristics. This autonomous region began to develop industrial production from nothing. Now, this autonomous region has a complete system of modern industry, including the petroleum and natural gas industry, petrochemistry, iron and steel industry, coal, metallurgy, mechanical industry, electric power, light industry, textile, food, construction materials, and nonferrous metals industry. Rapid economic development has largely increased the people's standard of living. Particularly over the past 20-plus years since reform and opening up, the people and the masses of all ethnic groups in this autonomous region have received more benefits than in any other previous period. People's material lives here have improved more rapidly in this period than in another previous period.
Infrastructure construction has speeded up and the ecological environment has continuously been improved. Between 1955 and 2004, accumulated investment in fixed assets was roughly RMB 800bn, nearly 90,000 projects were completed, and a large quantity of productivity was created. Since the founding of the autonomous region, Xinjiang has promoted large-scale construction of farmland water conservancy. A large number of water conservancy projects have been completed. This construction has greatly improved the condition of agricultural production. Railway transportation was put in place and has been developed continuously. Many railroads have been built, including the Lan-Xin Railway, the South Xinjiang Railway, and the North Xinjiang Railway. By the end of 2004, rails in use totalled 3,000km. The total of ordinary roads open to traffic was at 90,000km. Top quality and express roads totalled 1,200km. The Xinjiang civil aviation administration currently owns 11 airports and one all-weather backup airport in the autonomous region. The total number of air miles opened up is 110,000 km . The power industry has developed rapidly. A large number of important power plants have been established. Power generation capacity for this autonomous region has soared from 55m kW/h in 1955 to the current level of 26.6bn kW/h. Rapid development has been made in the post and telecommunications industry. A modern telecommunications system -comprised of programmed exchanges, fibre-optic telecommunications, digital microwaves, satellite telecommunications, and mobile telecommunications -has been established. Since the implementation of the West China Development Project, the national government has increased capital investment and support in Xinjiang. Between 1999 and 2004, total fixed asset investment in Xinjiang grew 18 per cent annually to RMB 487.6bn. The West-to-East NG Transmission Project, a symbol of the West China Development Project, has been completed and been put into operations. Comprehensive treatment of the drainage area of the Tarim River has begun to be effective. Infrastructure construction for water conservation, transportation, and energy has moved to a new period of rapid development.
Reform and opening up has continuously ascended to higher levels. We have meticulously implemented strategies and policies issued by the Party Central Committee and the State Council on economic systematic reform. We have steadily accelerated reform of the rural economic system and reform of state-owned enterprises, logistics, foreign trade, pricing, banking, financing, administrative management, and the social security system. We have initially constructed a new framework for the economic system that meets the needs of the socialist market economy and have accelerated development in the socialist market economy. We have consistently carried out a comprehensive opening up strategy that is characterized by "uniting the east, going out from the west, coming in from the west, and going out to the east" and that unites "bringing in" with "going out." We have fully brought geographic advantages into play in opening up West China and have consistently completed a comprehensive, multiple-level and extensive opening up pattern. We have promoted trade, economic and technological exchanges, and cooperation with foreign countries on an increasingly large scale. We have established trade relations with more than 100 countries and regions. In Xinjiang, there are 17 Class-A ports, 11 Class-B ports and three national-level development zones. Xinjiang is opening up to foreign countries on an increasingly high level.
The strategy of making Xinjiang prosperous through science and technology has been comprehensively implemented and leap-and-bound development has been made in all social projects. By the end of 2003, SOEs [state-owned enterprises] and state-owned nongovernment institutions employed over 480,000 technical professionals in all fields, 502 times greater than in the initial period after the founding of the autonomous region. Over the past 50 years, the autonomous region has made 8,096 significant scientific and technological achievements in the natural sciences, technology, and soft sciences. Among these achievements, 3,697 were given awards by the national government or the autonomous region government. We have consistently placed education in a strategic position. We have consistently given priority to the development of education to speed up the development of the education project. By the end of 2004, there were 28 ordinary colleges and universities, 183 mid-level professional schools, 1,965 ordinary middle schools and 5,451 elementary schools in Xinjiang. As high as 98.79 per cent of school-aged children go to school. Conditions for medical care and public health have been continuously improved. A three-level network for medical care, disease prevention, and public health is being continuously completed. By 2004, there were over 9,000 public health institutions of all kinds and 100,000 public health professionals in Xinjiang. Xinjiang has seen great development in the areas of culture and the arts, broadcasting, movies, TV and press, and publication. By 2004, there were 109 art troupes, the radio and broadcasting system covered 93 per cent of the total population, and all ethnic groups are leading an increasingly abundant cultural life in Xinjiang.
The cause of ethnic unity and progress has been continuously pushed forward. We have consistently regarded cultivating and using minority ethnic cadres as an important effort for comprehensively carrying out the party's policies for self-governance in minority ethnic areas and have cultivated and fostered a large number of excellent cadres from ethnic minorities. At present, the number of cadres from ethnic minorities has soared to 348,000, 52 per cent of all cadres in the autonomous region, 110 times greater than in the initial period after liberation. The number of professionals from ethnic minorities in all technical fields is 250,000, 56 per cent of all technical professionals in the autonomous region, 562 times greater than in the initial period after liberation. Women cadres from ethnic minorities account for at least 66 per cent of all women cadres in the autonomous region. We have consistently promoted ethnic unity education and propaganda -which focus on Marxist theory on ethnic affairs and the party's policies for ethnic affairs -among cadres and the masses of all ethnic groups. We have, on a large scale, conducted activities to commend ethnic unity and ethnic progress and commend exemplary figures who excel at ethnic unity. In this way, we have created an atmosphere thick with ethnic unity. Since 1983, in particular, we have conducted an activity called the Ethnic Unity Education Month, for 23 consecutive years. In this way, Marxist views on the country, on the Chinese nation and on religion have been mastered by an increasingly large number of cadres and the masses. In this way, the idea that the Han nationality cannot gain a foothold without minority ethnic groups, that minority ethnic groups cannot gain a foothold without the Han nationality, and that every ethnic minority cannot gain a foothold without every other minority ethnic group, has been deeply rooted in the minds of the public. In this way, the atmosphere has become thick with the practice of trust among ethnic groups, respect for one another, mutual learning, mutual support, and mutual understanding. In this way, exemplary figures who excel at strengthening ethnic unity have e merged in wave upon wave. This activity has effectively accelerated the cause of ethnic unity and ethnic progress and has led to an excellent situation in which all ethnic groups breathe the same breath, share one fate, are heart to heart, struggle side by side, and seek common prosperity and development.
The 50 years since the founding of the autonomous region are five decades in which all ethnic groups of Xinjiang people have changed the sky and the earth and have struggled in a painstaking manner and are five brilliant and resplendent decades of development in Xinjiang history. Brilliant achievements made by Xinjiang over the past five decades are the result of the correct leadership by the Party Central Committee and the State Council. These brilliant achievements are the result of the full support of the national government and the unselfish assistance of other areas at the provincial level. These brilliant achievements are the result of efforts made by all ethnic groups who unite, struggle, and press ahead for greater progress. These brilliant achievements are the great victory of the party's policies for self-governance in minority ethnic regions. Over the past 50 years, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps has been firm in carrying out its historic mission of being stationed at the border to safeguard the border and to open uncultivated land. This corps has carried forward and promoted the glorious traditions of our party and our military and has relied on itself. This corps has struggled hard to pursue career success and has earned historic achievements that cannot be denied in developing, safeguarding, and constructing Xinjiang. This corps has played an irreplaceable role in strengthening stability and in accelerating development in Xinjiang.
Marxist view of ethnic affairs
Over the past 50 years since the founding of the autonomous region, all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have - in the great practice of socialist construction - created and accumulated abundant experience. This is a very valuable asset. Meticulously reviewing this experience is of great significance for us in further satisfactorily carrying out all tasks in reform, development, and stability, in comprehensively constructing a well-off society [xiaokang shehui], and in accelerating socialist modernization construction.
Marxist views on ethnic affairs and the party's policies for ethnic affairs have been consistently carried out and the system for self-governance in minority ethnic areas has been continuously reinforced and completed. We have adhered to the Marxist view of ethnic affairs and have meticulously carried out the party's policies for ethnic affairs. We have united overall policies and strategies for ethnic work issued by the central government with the actual situation in ethnic work in Xinjiang. We have adopted a series of policies and measures that accelerate economic and social development in minority ethnic areas, that strengthen ethnic unity, and that maintain social stability in an effort to accelerate economic and social development and the cause of national unity and national progress. Practice shows that our party's polices on ethnic affairs and religious affairs, as well as the self-governance system for minority ethnic areas, are completely correct; suit the actual situation in China; meet the fundamental interests of all ethnic groups in our country; are important groundwork and an important guarantee for all ethnic groups uniting as one, struggling to seek common prosperity, and common development; and are very vigorous. Only when we unswervingly adhere to the Marxist view of ethnic affairs and to the party's policies on ethnic affairs and practice and only when we complete the system for self-governance in minority ethnic areas, will we be able to reinforce socialist ethnic relations based on equality, unity, reciprocal assistance, and harmony and will we be able to accelerate common prosperity and common development among all ethnic groups.
We have consistently emancipated minds, sought the truth from facts, advanced with the times, regarded the actual situation as the starting point, and explored a development road that suits the actual situation in Xinjiang. Xinjiang is border area where different ethnic groups are gathered. This area has obvious individual characteristics. This requires us not only to unswervingly adhere to the party's basic line and to unswervingly carry out the party's lines, strategies, and policies, but also requires us to adhere to the party's ideological line, to regard the actual situation as the starting point for all, and to determine key projects, targets, and tasks for the development of Xinjiang in light of the actual situation. We should adopt effective procedures and methods -in light of our own conditions -to write a good chapter in uniting the spirit of leaders at a more senior level with the actual local circumstances, to work in a creative manner, and to open our own roads through practice. Xinjiang could not have developed without the support and aid of the central government and by other areas at the provincial level. More importantly, Xinjiang should rely on people of all ethnic groups in the autonomous region to struggle with painstaking efforts to achieve development. Xinjiang must consistently regard the actual situation as the starting point. Xinjiang should not only gain support from the national government but should also depend on itself, struggle with painstaking efforts to pursue career success, and maintain the spiritual status of advancing with the times. Xinjiang should not wait and rely on others but should rise to the occasion, be brave to explore and innovate, and pour liveliness and vigour into all our causes.
We have consistently regarded economic construction as the central task, have accelerated reform and opening up, and have vigorously developed the social forces of production. For years, we have regarded the actual situation of the autonomous region as the starting point. We have unswervingly implemented an advantageous resource transformation strategy that focuses on "one white resource and one black resource" (cotton and petroleum). We have continuously enriched and strengthened this strategy, have vigorously developed its specialized product economy, and have accelerated development in modern agriculture, modern forestry, modern orchard growing, and the industrialization of agriculture. We have accelerated new industrialization and urbanization, have worked hard to accelerate economic development in Xinjiang, and have brought benefits to the people and the masses of all ethnic groups. Practice shows that only when we adhere to the idea that development is the last word, consistently reform and open up, continuously accelerate economic and social development, and gradually narrow the gap between coastal areas and inland areas, will our party and our socialism be stronger in uniting people and attracting people.
Stability - the basis of development
We have adhered to the strategy of placing stability above all else and have been unswerving in carrying out all significant decisions made by the central authorities on maintaining stability in Xinjiang. Stability is the basis of reform and development. Without a stable environment, all else will be pointless to discuss. Stability in Xinjiang influences the overall situation in the country. For years, we have meticulously carried out a series of significant decisions made by the central authorities on maintaining stability in Xinjiang, have taken a firm stance in fighting ethnic separatism and illegal religious activities, and have adopted measures for solving both major and minor problems so as to effectively carry out our work and maintain stability for the overall situation in Xinjiang. Reviewing the process of fighting separatism, we have profoundly realized that the Party Central Committee had a bird's-eye view of the overall situation; accurately grasped development and changes in the international and domestic situations; put forward guiding strategies, policies and measures for our work; guided our direction; and steered the course of work. The Party Central Committee has played a decisive role in our victory over the fight against separatism. Under the new historic conditions, we must focus on the overall situation of party work and national work, must focus on the need to safeguard the supreme interests of the country and the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups, and must be unswerving in carrying out significant decisions made by the central authorities. We must consistently work with one hand on reform and development and work with the other hand on unity and stability. We must unite the will and the strength of the masses of all ethnic groups in the autonomous region, safeguard the unification of the motherland, safeguard ethnic unity, and preserve social and political stability in Xinjiang.
We have consistently served the interests of the public, governed for the people, and brought benefits to the people and the masses of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. The CCP is the loyal representative of the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups. We consistently regard satisfactorily realizing, preserving, and developing the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people as the fundamental starting point and the end-result of all our work. Throughout the course of accelerating reform and construction, we have - in accordance with the requirement of serving the interests of the public and governing for the people - united meeting the long-term strategic goals of economic and social development with carrying out short-term tasks related to raising the masses' standard of living. We have brought issues - which the people and the masses are more concerned about than anything else, that are the most realistic, and that should be solved before any other issue - to the top of our agenda and have handled these issues as significant issues. Bringing benefits to the people and the masses has enhanced ethnic unity, has improved the party's and the government's ability to unite people and to attract people, and has strengthened the confidence and the determination of people of all ethnic groups in following the party and in working in one mind to make our future better. Creating benefits wholeheartedly for the people of all ethnic groups is a time-tested ideological guideline that guides us continuously towards victory.
We have consistently regarded strengthening ethnic unity as the major theme, have vigorously strengthened harmony and development, and have developed and constructed Xinjiang with joint efforts. Ethnic unity is the lifeblood of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. We have been unswerving in promoting education on ethnic unity, have commended role models in ethnic unity at every level, have continuously accelerated the cause of ethnic unity and ethnic progress, and have created and reviewed some excellent experiences in strengthening ethnic unity. These excellent experiences have exerted an extensive and profound influence on the autonomous region and even on the whole country. These experiences have made an important contribution to the work of ethnic unity in the autonomous region and even to the work of ethnic unity throughout the nation. Under the new situation, we have vigorously strengthened unity between the military and the civilian governments, unity between the military and civilians, unity between the production and construction corps and local sectors, and unity between enterprises under the direct administration of the central government and local enterprises. Under the new situation, we have united the strength of all sectors to stabilize Xinjiang, to make Xinjiang more prosperous, to enrich the people, to strengthen border defence, to strengthen ethnic unity, to accelerate development, and to work together in developing and constructing Xinjiang. No matter whether it is the past, the present or the future, unbreakable overall unity among all ethnic groups is always the basis and the guarantee that lead us towards victory.
Upholding central government's decisions
The first 20 years in this century are a period of an important strategic opportunity that we must firmly seize to make great achievements. The West China Development Project has been implemented at a higher level. The overall strategic arrangements issued by the central authorities for development and stability in Xinjiang have been carried out and implemented. Together with these implementations, Xinjiang is facing an unprecedented opportunity for development and has greater prospects. We should seize this valuable strategic opportunity, consistently promote the glorious tradition of independence and painstaking struggle, and regard the actual situation of the autonomous region as the starting point. We should press ahead for greater achievements, advance with the times, and forge ahead and break new ground in reform, opening up, and socialist modernization construction.
We should comprehensively implement the concept of scientific development and accelerate the development of the national economy and social progress. In light of the actual situation in the autonomous region and in light of the need to keep in step with other places around China in comprehensively constructing a well-off society, we put forward a goal of doubling the GDP in 2000 by the year 2020. The key to accelerating economic and social development lies in consistently using the concept of scientific development to guide the overall situation of economic and social development, in scientifically determining plans and targets for development, and in proving the advantages of the socialist system and the self-governance system for ethnic minority areas by developing advanced forces of production, by developing advanced culture, and by realizing the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups. We should regard satisfactorily handling "san nong" [the three rural issues: agriculture, peasants and rural areas] as the most important task. We should - on the premise of guaranteeing grain security - continuously optimize the structure of the agricultural industry, should bring the advantages of the area's resources into full play, and should focus on satisfactorily enhancing the construction of production bases for cotton, for grain, for the area's forestry and fruit, and for animal husbandry products. We should be unswerving in strengthening the strategy for transforming advantageous resources, expand and strengthen pillar industries, and transform Xinjiang into an important chemical base for petroleum and natural gas, an important chemical base for coal-electricity and coal, and an important relay base for important strategic materials. We should open up a new road towards industrialization that suits the actual situation in Xinjiang. We should ensure that secondary industry accounts for at least 50 per cent of the GDP in the autonomous region by 2010 and try to achieve general industrialization within the first two decades of the century. We should vigorously develop tertiary industry and accelerate the construction of infrastructure for water conservation, energy, transportation, telecommunications, and major raw materials and the construction of basic industry, so as to lay a solid foundation for rapid economic development in the autonomous region. We should comprehensively implement the strategy of making Xinjiang more prosperous through science and education and the strategy of strengthening Xinjiang through highly qualified professionals and should accelerate comprehensive progress in all social projects.
We should further emancipate the minds, change concepts, and accelerate reform and opening up. In order to achieve rapid, extraordinary, and leap-and-bound economic development in Xinjiang, we should, first, further emancipate the minds and update concepts. We should use overall ideological emancipation and the overall updating of concepts to accelerate overall economic development and overall social progress. We should be brave in tackling difficult issues and brave in making progress. We should devote greater efforts to reforming key fields. We should try to make new breakthroughs in important fields and key issues. We should adhere to the "two unswerving points," being unswerving in reinforcing and developing the publicly owned economy and being unswerving in encouraging, supporting, and guiding the development of the nonpublicly owned economy, such as individually owned businesses and privately operated enterprises. We should be oriented towards the two resources and the two markets. We should uphold the concept of the overall market and the concept of overall opening up. We should participate in domestic and international competition on a large scale, in more fields, and at a higher level. We should regard satisfactorily using the resources of neighbouring countries as part of our strategy of transforming resource advantages. We should strengthen cooperation with these countries on the basis of reciprocal supplementing of resources. We should continuously create new room in which to implement the advantageous resource transformation strategy.
We should firmly carry out all significant decisions made by the central government for preserving stability in Xinjiang. We should unswervingly safeguard the unification of the motherland and safeguard social and political stability. We should unswervingly uphold the ideology of placing stability above all else, profoundly carry out the series of significant decisions made by the central government for safeguarding stability in Xinjiang, and meticulously carry out all tasks related to preserving social and political stability. We should adhere to the strategy of "taking the initiative to attack, strike [separatism] as soon as it appears, and make preemptive strikes." We should firmly crack down on separatist activities by the "three forces" and firmly gain the upper hand in the struggle against separatism. We should further strengthen all measures for solving major problems and continue to promote centralized rectification campaigns in key areas. We should strengthen the management of religious affairs in accordance with the law, focus on the enhancement of grassroots organization construction, and strengthen the reeducation campaign on the struggle against separatism in the field of ideology. We should meticulously and satisfactorily handle hot issues and difficult issues and appropriately resolve internal-contradictions among the people. We should guarantee the stability of Xinjiang's overall social and political situation and create an excellent situation for reform, opening up, and modernization construction.
We should adhere to the governing philosophy of being people-centred. We should strive to solve practical problems for the masses of all ethnic groups. We should effectively and satisfactorily safeguard the immediate interests of the people of all ethnic groups. We should consistently regard satisfactorily realizing, safeguarding, and developing the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people as the fundamental starting point and the end-result for all our work. We should place the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups in the first place, effectively bring benefits to the people and the masses, and solve practical problems for the people and the masses. We should profoundly carry out ideological and political education and guide the masses to correctly analyse the situation, correctly grasp the actual situation of the autonomous region, correctly understand the benefits-oriented relationship among all sectors, raise their ideological and political conscientiousness, strengthen the concept of the overall situation, and work in one mind in struggling for accelerating economic and social development.
We should strive to create and foster a contingent of highly qualified cadres of all ethnic groups in accordance with the need to enhance construction of the party's ability to govern. We should continue to strengthen the political standard, strengthen training through practice, and regard the requirements of the concept of scientific development and the correct view of administrative achievements as the overarching philosophy for the detailed practice of observing cadres. We should pay great attention to and satisfactorily train, select, and use cadres from ethnic minorities. We should construct a contingent of highly qualified ethnic minority cadres who have a firm political stance; are professionally excellent; excel at leading reform, opening up and socialist modernization construction, and have won the sincere support of the masses of all ethnic groups. Cadres of all ethnic groups should learn from one another, respect one another, closely cooperate with one another, give top priority to the overall situation, work in one mind to benefit the people of all ethnic groups, and make new contributions to accelerating economic development and to strengthening social stability.
A classical poem says, "When the sea is at low tide, the sea looks vast; when the wind is blowing, the sailboat sails on the wind." We should be unswerving in adhering to the leadership of the CCP, in carrying out the party's policies on ethnic affairs, and in reinforcing and completing the self-governance system for ethnic minority areas. We should - under the correct leadership of the Party Central Committee and the State Council - work in one mind, struggle with painstaking efforts, and be of one mind and bed united as one. If we do this, we will certainly be able to achieve the goal of comprehensively constructing a well-off society and making socialist Xinjiang more prosperous, wealthier, and more harmonious.
Source: Qiushi website, Beijing, in Chinese 1 Oct 05
posted November 06, 2005 at 02:39 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (18)
November 04, 2005
Uyghurs "Don't Dare Talk"
I've just finished reading a short feature article about Uyghurs in Xinjiang that was recently published by Reuters. Now... I know there's plenty to criticize about the way the central government acts here in Xinjiang... and I'm certainly no fan of repression in any form. But even I found the article - which you can read below - fairly one-sided and slanted. Also, it seems questionable to me that someone who has either just flown in from Beijing or just popped over the border from Kazakhstan (based on her interviews in Yining and Khorgos) would be able to elicit such a supposedly deep understanding of Uyghur grievances. Her facts are basically straight, but the idea that every Uyghur looks over his shoulder before talking negatively about the central goverment is a bunch of hooey. They seem to talk about it freely enough with me, when I ask. Somehow I doubt that Ms. Graham-Harrison encountered frightened Uyghurs whispering, "We don't dare talk," on their way home from prayers. "We don't want to talk to you," is probably more like it.
This article is poor journalism. It sheds no new light on an old subject, recycles well-known facts, and paints with a brush far too wide. Why am I blogging about it? I dunno.
China's Muslim Uighurs "don't dare talk"
By Emma Graham-Harrison
31 October 2005
YINING, China, Nov 1 (Reuters) - The same muttered phrase greets any curious visitor who strays into the mosques and bazaars dotting towns in Xinjiang province in China's remote northwest.
"We don't dare talk," members of the Uighur ethnic minority whisper, coming from prayers or as they head out shopping.
One or two who are braver, or more foolish, glance around to scout for eavesdroppers before complaining about how hard it is to find jobs, educate their children or practise their religion.
Xinjiang is nominally autonomous and ruled by the Uighurs -- Muslims with Caucasian features who speak a Turkic language -- and other ethnic minorities.
But since Mao's troops seized China in 1949 and took control of the region, Beijing has maintained a firm grip on the levers of power and made Uighurs a minority in their own home by encouraging millions of Han Chinese to settle there.
Any incautious criticism of Chinese rule can land a Uighur in prison, exiled activists say.
Only formally incorporated into China in 1884, Xinjiang saw a brief period of virtual independence from 1938 when it sought aid from the Soviet Union -- giving added impetus to a 150-year fight for an independent East Turkestan homeland.
But the province is strategically vital to Beijing. It sits on a third of the country's oil and 40 percent of its coal, accounts for around one sixth of Chinese territory and gives it a border with several central Asian nations.
Chinese officials say that while tight control is needed to stamp out separatist sentiment and terrorist ideas imported from countries like Afghanistan, the 19-million-strong population basically lives in harmony.
"Our biggest threat to ethnic relations is Osama bin Laden and the Taliban," Bai Hua, vice-mayor of the regional capital, Urumqi, told Reuters, waving away suggestions of domestic discontent.
But with the last serious violence dating back to the late 1990s -- nine died in riots in Yining in 1997 -- some say China is exploiting international fears of terrorism.
"China very clearly wants to show the world that it too is a victim of terrorism, to vilify Uighurs' political activities," Dilxat Raxit, the Sweden-based spokesman of the World Uighur Congress, told Reuters by telephone.
He said after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States "the Chinese started arresting Uighurs anywhere and for anything ... they did it outside any legal framework".
Even financial success and government praise are no guarantee of immunity from the region's prisons. Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled businesswoman, was on a consultative body to China's parliament.
But she was detained in 1999 and charged with providing state secrets to foreign institutions after sending newspaper clippings about separatist groups to her husband in the United States.
A network of informants also sows distrust, Uighurs say.
In the border town of Horgas, officials said they rely on their whole population to prevent a repeat of the riots.
"Ordinary people are very vigilant. As soon as they discover some kind of problem, they go straight to the government or public security bureau to report it," Jia Yisheng, a senior party official, told visiting journalists.
But experts say that if Uighurs were allowed to control and enjoy their own culture there would be far less little support for secession and Beijing's heavy hand might not be necessary.
"Many Uighurs are more moderate, and would be content with a more autonomous state within China," said one Western diplomat.
ELUSIVE JOBS, RELIGIOUS PRESSURE
China believes an ambitious campaign to develop poorer western regions is bringing Xinjiang the kind of prosperity that countries in Central Asia can only envy. Uighurs say the programme offers little for them.
The influx of Han Chinese -- often better educated, better connected and with the language skills to tap into government subsidies -- makes it hard for Uighurs to compete.
"The Han work a lot, we just pray a lot," said one man filing out of a run-down small-town mosque.
Most Uighurs are also effectively barred from joining the Communist Party -- often a route to improvement in poorer areas of China -- by a rule that members must be atheist.
Even for those who don't want to join the party, just observing their faith can be difficult, as the government uses religion to target Uighurs, said Nicolas Becquelin at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong.
"It is Uighur Islam that is targeted. Through ... control of religion the authorities are trying to quell ethno-nationalist sentiment. Islam is not the real target in this, it is seen as the vehicle for expressing dissent," Becquelin said.
Teaching religion is complicated because children under 18 are banned from attending mosques or receiving religious education, and imams must renew their licence every year and are expected to show patriotism as well as devotion, Becquelin said.
"The mosques look free on the outside," said one nervous shopper. "But on the inside, the pressure is just growing."
posted November 04, 2005 at 03:58 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (29)
November 01, 2005
Happy Birthday, Mom
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Mo-om,
Happy Birthday to you.
P.S. I hope (for my sake) you got the postcards I sent!
With love from China,
posted November 01, 2005 at 01:36 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (16)