By Seth Dixon, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Geography at Rhode Island College The government of the People’s Republic of China calls the country’s westernmost region Xinjiang, but the people who have lived there for centuries refer to their home as Eastern Turkistan. Oftentimes when two groups do not refer to a place by the same name, it points to a cultural or political conflict, as is the … Continue reading One Place, Two Names
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 Province, 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.