A beauty that was government’s beast

The Washington Post, 21 November 2010
By Barbara Demick

URUMQI, CHINA – Almost invariably when visitors approach the middle-age woman enshrined in a climatized exhibit case in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Museum, they pause and do a double take. What gets the most attention is her nose: high-bridged, slightly hooked, the sort of nose that reminds one of Meryl Streep.

Then a little gasp. “Weiguoren!” (A foreigner!), one young woman exclaimed to her friends.

Nearly 4,000 years after her death, Beauty of Loulan still has the ability to amaze.

She is one of hundreds of Bronze Age mummies discovered in the shifting desert sands of northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, where thousands more still lie buried. Unlike the embalmed mummies of ancient Egypt, they were preserved naturally by the elements, which in some ways makes them more interesting. They represent an extended span of history from 1800 B.C. to as recently as the Ching dynasty (1644 to 1912) and a range of human experience. Some were kings and warriors, others housewives and farmers.

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A descent into Muslim China’s ever-present rage

The Toronto Review, 20 November 2010

There were a lot of rumours and a lot of fear following the July 4, 2009 riots in Urumqi, the capital of China’s northwest Muslim province of Xinjiang. But by September of that year, the restrictions being place on the city’s denizens — even during Ramadan, a tense period at the best of times — are barely noticeable, at least as far as armed police presence goes.

Swarms of ethnically Han Chinese gather in the early morning hours in the local People’s Square, the alleged flash point of the violent protests, which had an official tally of 140 recorded deaths. But in the cool September mornings, the square is the sight of pure serenity, with tai chi practitioners swooping through slow movements and others dancing. One man, his white collared shirt loosened around his neck and his briefcase propped against the wall behind him, whirls a pair of nun-chucks. An older, Muslim Uighur gentleman cycles steadily through the square. No one pays him any mind.

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UNESCO world heritage list: Croatian folk singing and Uighur dancing among list of obscure rituals

The Telegraph, 18 November 2010

Croatian folk singing and ancient Uighur dancing are among a list of 51 odd but intriguing cultural traditions to have been awarded protection by the United Nations’ cultural organisation.

Turkish oil wrestling, a Peruvian scissor dance and an annual hopping procession in Luxembourg are also vying for inclusion on UNESCO’s list of “intangible heritage” – centuries-old practices which are being eroded by globalisation and urbanisation.

French gastronomy, Spain’s flamenco dance, Chinese acupuncture and the olive oil-based Mediterranean diet, which had been jointly proposed by Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco, also joined the list.

The UN agency is better known for awarding World Heritage status to monuments and natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef, Egypt’s pyramids and Cambodia’s ‘lost city’ of Angkor Wat.

But since 2006 it has also recognised elements of living heritage, such as songs, festivals, religious rites and languages.

Delegates from around the world are meeting in Nairobi to consider which of 51 items from 30 countries are worthy of being inscribed on its “intangible heritage” list.

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Recapturing Kashgar’s old glory

Times of Kabul, 17 November 2010

Reporting from Kashgar, China — At the Sunday market in Kashgar, it isn’t a wild stretch to imagine commerce as it might have been in the 13th century when Marco Polo passed through this Silk Road oasis: Smooth-faced boys wrangle with horses, sheep and camels. Mounds of melons and grapes are stacked on the bare wooden planks of mule-drawn carts. A wizened man wearing a skullcap sharpens knives on a lathe operated by foot pedals.

But modernity is catching up with a vengeance, as the Chinese government yanks the nation’s westernmost city, despite the misgivings of many residents, into the 21st century.

Kashgar is slated to become a special economic zone, and the signs of change are already visible.

Developers from China’s east coast are snapping up land in the area, residents say. Concealed behind a row of graceful poplar trees along the main road to the airport, newly erected green wire fences delineate plots of land slated for development: a factory that makes instant ramen noodles for export to Pakistan and Tajikistan, a warehouse for wheat also headed for central Asia.

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US report: China seeking to forcibly return Uighurs, Tibetans

Monsters and Critics, 17 November 2010

Washington – China has been seeking the forcible return of Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims who have voiced criticism of Beijing over the lack of religious freedom, the US State Department said Wednesday.

In its annual report on international religious freedom, the State Department said that China has sought to have the individuals returned from Middle East and South Asian countries ‘because of their religious activities and defense of religious freedom.’

The report also cited a UN finding that China forced the return of three Tibetan Buddhists, including a monk, from Nepal – the first since 2003.

The report, which assess religious freedom in all of the world’s countries, covers a period beginning in July 2009 through the end of June. China, along with Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan, remained listed as countries of ‘particular concern.’

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China’s gift to Mecca

The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 November 2010

It was promoted as a commercial construction deal, but an 18-kilometre railway has cost Chinese taxpayers $605 million.

THE Chinese state goes to great lengths to stop Uighur Muslims in the country’s far west from taking part in the great hajj pilgrimage, denying passports to most and forcing others to travel in tightly controlled groups.

But more than 2 million Muslims from the rest of the world who are now converging on Mecca have reason to thank Beijing.

Specifically, they can thank the huge, rapidly growing and grossly inefficient mix of opaque politics and state-dominated business known as “China Inc” which has just delivered a dual-track monorail linking Mecca to the holy sites of Mina and Mount Arafat.

The 18-kilometre line opened at the weekend in time to ease the massive transport bottleneck that begins each year on the eighth day of the Muslim calendar month of Dhul Hijja. Construction took just 16 months.

Capacity will soon rise to 72,000 passengers an hour.

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Cuts Expected for Uyghur Teachers

Radio Free Asia, 16 November 2010

Authorities plan to fire hundreds of Uyghur teachers in northwest China.

Chinese authorities in Xinjiang are expected to begin removing Uyghur teachers under a stepped-up enforcement of a bilingual policy combining Mandarin in Uyghur schools, according to educators from the region.

Teachers in Toksun county, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’s Turpan prefecture, said all school instructors are required to take a Chinese language proficiency examination on Nov. 20 which will be used to determine who will be fired.

One Uyghur teacher working at the local education department for nearly 30 years said authorities made an announcement that 518 teachers would be cut from the Toksun county school system in early November.

“It’s about consolidating staff. In some places, there are too many teachers. Because of the Chinese language in school, the number of Uyghur students has decreased and there were too many teachers. That’s why they are cutting some of the positions there,” said the teacher, who asked to remain anonymous.

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Tibet call made in anti-China rally in Japan

Tibetan Review, 15 November 2010

(TibetanReview.net, Nov15, 2010)  If anti-Japan protests in China turned into anti-regime calls in places and on occasions recently, an anti-China protest in Japan on Nov 13 turned into a call favour of Tibet, Xinjiang, etc., which are under Chinese occupation rule. Protesters waved the flags of Tibet, east Turkmenistan (sic) and south Mongolia and shouted “defeat Chinese imperialism,” reported the Canadian Press online Nov 13.

About 4,000 demonstrators waving Japanese flags and shouting anti-China slogans marched against Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Yokohama for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) being held there Nov 13-14, the report said. The protest highlighted the strain in relations between the two countries due to their heightened dispute over a cluster of islets in the East China Sea that the Japanese, which control it, call the Senkaku, and which the Chinese, which claim it, call the Diaoyu.

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