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Go WEST - Chinese colonisation in Xinjiang - China 2010

July 2009, violent riots broke out in Urumqi, capital city of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), China. Tensions find their roots in the increasing presence of Chinese Han on the Uyghur land. Since then, the Xinjiang is locked up by the Chinese army, which is based in every main cities of the region. The ‘conquest’ of the Eastern Turkestan by the Hans has started beginning of the 18th century and went through many evolutions. However, compare to the neighbouring Tibet, Beijing has always considered the Xinjiang as a full part of its territory. Since decades, the central government facilitates population’s immigration from the East and South of the country towards its West. By applying this expansion policy, the Chinese government attempts to impose its hegemony, and on another hand, the government also tries to securitize its supply in gas and oil. The events of September 2001 have definitely given the tools Beijing’s policy was missing. The Uyghurs defending their religious and cultural rights are now accused of ‘terrorism’.

The Uyghurs are the second largest Muslim community of China (8 million). Becoming the majority in the Xinjiang region, the Hans have taken over the capital city, Urumqi. Rebuild and ‘brand new’, the city has from now on a Chinese megalopolis style. On the Western border, Kashgar is Uyghurs’ stronghold. However, the city has also been through heavy changes. The historical heart of the city is progressively pulled down to leave room for a richer Han population. Employments created thanks to state-granted industries are usually aimed at Hans only. These economic disparities sharpen a little more the inter-ethnic tensions. The Uyghurs do not go along easily with this new cohabitation. Resigned, they know they will have to negotiate with the Hans.