Crackdown Threatens Uighurs Oasis
IslamOnline.net & Newspapers
People in Kashgar are living in a climate of fear created by the authorities. (NY Times)
CAIRO — China’s clampdown on its Uighur Muslim minority after the recent ethnic riots has spread to reach Kashgar, an ancient Silk Road oasis known as the heart of the Uighur culture, where a climate of fear has taken hold.
"The situation may look calm now, but it could change at any second," a local government official told the New York Times on Thursday, July 23, while taking a group of foreign journalists ordered to leave Kashgar to the airport.
The ancient city of Kashgar has come under a massive security blanket that grips Urumqi, the capital of the Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.
At least 190 people were killed and over 1,700 other injured in Urumqi riots and the ensuing security crackdown.
Thousands of Uighurs took to the streets of Urumqi on July 5 to protest repression and discrimination.
Hundreds of Uighur Muslims have since been rounded up in Urumqi on claims of being involved in the unrest.
Though being some 700 miles away, the authorities are mounting a similar crackdown on in Kashgar, a city of 3.4 million people more than 90 percent of them Uighur.
The authorities claim the move is necessary to prevent potential unrest.
Everywhere in Kashgar, prohibitory orders are already in force. Foreigners were advised against venturing out of their hotels.
Thousands of armed soldiers have flooded the city and are patrolling downtown Kashgar day and night.
And while journalists in Urumqi can move with relative freedom, the few foreign reporters who made it to Kashgar were promptly hustled out of town under the pretext of safety concerns.
The authorities have even blocked access to the Internet and shut down text messaging and international phone service.
Climate of Fear
The security crackdown has almost paralyzed the lives of Kashgar residents.
"I’m expecting a group of Swiss tourists next week, but I have no way of knowing whether they’re still coming," said one tour operator, referring to the communication blackout.
People are accusing the authorities of creating a climate of fear in their city.
"Sure, I will take you wherever you want to go, but first I have to call my friend and see if he will drive us," Ali, a tour guide, told a group of foreign journalists who managed to escape being driven out of Kashgar.
But after a quick exchange, Ali hung up the phone and said a government minder would soon be arriving to escort the group onto the next flight out of town.
"Sorry," Ali said as the journalists prepared to flee in a taxi.
"But if I didn’t make that call, I would get in big trouble."
Just last week, hotel clerks, tour guides and taxi drivers were instructed to be on the lookout for pesky foreign journalists.
A woman employed by a state-owned tourism company told of a meeting during which her boss warned that people caught assisting reporters would lose their jobs — as would members of their immediate families.
But what the Kashgar residents fear most are the government informants.
Ismail, a secondary school teacher, says his brother became a victim of those informants.
He was detained after publicly criticizing plans to tear down the old mud-and-straw homes that, until recently, flanked Kashgar’s historic mosque.
"You have to be careful because informers are everywhere," Ismail told the Times.
"I would not trust anyone if I were you." Sourced from IslamOnline.net