Ethnic Clash in Xinjiang, China

In our June 17 blog entry, My Wonderful World addressed Palau’s acceptance of the Uighur Guantánamo Bay detainees. In recent days, international newspapers have been focusing on the bloody clash between the ethnic Han Chinese and the Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang map china.gifProvince, namely in its capitol city of Urumqi.  The tension between the two groups in Xinjiang, where the majority Uighurs are ruled by the minority (but majority population of China) Han, is not new, but since the new wave erupted on June 30, at least 156 people have died.

This clash between ethnicities in Xinjiang can be traced back to the 18th century, when the Manchu Qing dynasty began conquest of the Uighur region.  In this area, the inhabitants were of Turkic Muslim, not ethnic Han, descent,–like their neighbors in nearby Kazakstan, Kirghistan and Uzbekistan– and they did not speak the Chinese Language.  In the 1940s, there was an independent Eastern Turkestan
Republic in part of Xinjiang, but in 1949, the entire region was
declared part of the newly formed People’s Chinese Republic.

Under Chinese rule, the Uighurs’ economic development has been
hindered.  Since the 1970s, the Chinese government has been promoting
the migration of “more qualified” Han Chinese to the region, where many
people lack proficiency in the Chinese language.  Many young Uighurs
are forced to leave Xinjiang for economic opportunities in other
regions to the East, including young women whose migration conflicts
with many of the protective values of Islam.     uighurs.jpg
In China,
religion is strictly controlled by the State Administration for
Religious Affairs, but in Xinjiang, where 45% are Muslim Uighurs, the
control leads to resentment.  Since 1949, the number of mosques has
decreased and children under the age of 18 are not allowed to attend. 
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been a new movement of
separatist groups in Xinjiang, including a series of large
demonstrations during the 1990s.  

The new wave of violence this
month came about after a Uighur man, laid-off from his job at a toy
factory in Southern China, posted a fake message on the internet.  The
message, claiming that two girls had been raped by six boys, initiated
a brawl between the Han and Uighur ethnic groups at the factory.  In a
nearby city, a fight between the two groups left 118
people injured.  The violence spread to Xinjiang’s capitol Urumqi.  On
Sunday, violent clashes left 156 people dead and an additional 1000
people injured.  Police encircled the demonstrators and arrested many
of the male participants.  Later in the day, over 100 women began to
riot, some with infants in hand.  

The conflict in Urumqi began
as a peaceful protest urging China to look into the dispute between the
Uighurs and Han at the Southern factory.  Fighting spread, and by
Tuesday morning some 1,400 people had been detained and over 200 shops
burned in the capitol city. As in Iran, protests were coordinated using
the internet and messaging sites.  Currently, the government is using
tightly controlled police forces to contain the demonstrators and make

At least one Han woman [who? Link to article quoting
this woman] believes that the government needs to be strict so that the
conflict ends as quickly as possible.  Do you agree?  Knowing the
history of the conflict, do you think that the U.S. is right not to
send the Guantánamo Bay detainees back to China?

Melissa for My Wonderful World

7 thoughts on “Ethnic Clash in Xinjiang, China

  1. Thanks for your comment. It’s really interesting to hear about what’s going on in China from someone who lives there as opposed to what we get from Western Media.

  2. ,I have lived in Xinjiang for more then 20years.How dare you say those untrue things here.You should come here to see yourself the truth.You should belive your eyes.
    184 innocent people died.All are han Chinese,no one is local people.Most of them are woman and students.They are killed by the fire,head attacked by big stones,even 10 or 20 people kill a pupil student together,all because of he is Han chinese not local.
    You know nothing but shouting here.
    The thousands of Han Chinese went to the street want to revenge ,the police stopped them.Did you see a people is killed by the polce?If you can show me one ?only one. 1.3 billion Chinese all hope those 1343 killers be sentenced to death fairly.
    My father is a Han chinese,till now is in Xinjiang .He is the withness of the whole terrorists!
    Freely the people have their own religions,own festivals and own languages there,all the religions are protected and develops well.
    You can see the reports from local xinjiang.

  3. The Chinese government has traditionally followed a policy of “homogenization”; i.e. all the minorities should adopt the culture, language and ways of the majority Han community.
    Uighurs are amongst the most oppressed and disadvantaged minorities in China. Over a period of time the Uighur population ratio has declined from 90% in the early 50’s to less than 45% today. They are not allowed to practice their religion freely and their representation in the government and security forces is very low.
    Following the recent uprising, the Chinese government is comically raising the bogey of terrorism and Al-Quaida to gain the sympathy of the west. Tomorrow they will say that even Dalai Lama is being supported by terrorists!

  4. Uighurs have a history of killing Han Chinese at XingJiang. When my mother visited XingJiang during 80s, local Chinese peasants(who moved to XingJiang during 60s) hide during night because Uighurs will come to their homes and kill them at night.

  5. XInjiang develops very well.
    You should come to xinjiang yourself have a look and know more about the truth.
    Xinjiang has been a part of China since 5,000years ago.
    China is a contry with 56 different ethnic.A whole family.

  6. Hi Jose,
    Thanks for your comment. You’re right, we probably should have chosen a map that included Taiwan as a province of China. Our focus, however, was on Xinjiang, not Taiwan.
    Taiwan’s sovereignty is a somewhat contentious political question. Most countries and international organizations in the world, including the United States and the United Nations, formally recognize the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate government of China, and they do NOT formally recognize the Republic of China (ROC) government, which claims jurisdiction over Taiwan. A small number of countries DO, however, maintain formal diplomatic relations with the ROC. The U.S. maintains informal relations with the ROC, including unofficial “embassies” in Taiwan. The U.S. is intentionally dubious in its recognition of PRC claims to Taiwan, it neither formally acknowledges nor denies them.
    So it depends on whose map you go by: The PRC’s or the ROC’s. National Geographic’s cartographers usually include Taiwan as part of China, so we’ll go with their–and your–convention.

  7. Donot you know Taiwan is a province of China?
    In the map,it must be the same color as China mainland.

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