After surviving hundreds of years at the edge of the desert in a land more removed from the oceans than anywhere on Earth, the Silk Road oasis of Kashgar will soon be destroyed once and for all.
What endured the elements & foreign invasions for centuries failed to withstand 6 decades of Chinese rule.
Traders from Delhi and Samarkand, wearied by frigid treks through the world’s most daunting mountain ranges, unloaded their pack horses here and sold saffron and lutes along the city’s cramped streets. Chinese traders, their camels laden with silk and porcelain, did the same.
The traders are now joined by tourists exploring the donkey-cart alleys and mud-and-straw buildings once window-shopped, then sacked, by Tamerlane and Genghis Khan.
Now, Kashgar is about to be sacked again.
Over the next few years, city officials say, they will demolish at least 85 percent of this warren of picturesque, if run-down homes and shops. Many of its 13,000 families, Muslims from a Turkic ethnic group called the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs), will be moved.
This is the line that kills me:
In its place will rise a new Old City, a mix of midrise apartments, plazas, alleys widened into avenues and reproductions of ancient Islamic architecture "to preserve the Uighur culture," Kashgar’s vice mayor, Xu Jianrong, said in a phone interview.
Yes, yes. We are razing it to the ground in the interest of preservation. Everyone knows you cannot preserve something without completely destroying it first.
I'm going to resist going on a long rant about the horrors of modern China in the interest of keeping this brief, but that statement is appalling to no end, yet crystallizes the attitude of the Chinese toward their minorities.
More from the NYT Times piece, well worth reading in its entirety:
But three of the Old City’s seven sectors are judged unfit for Uighur architecture and will be rebuilt with decidedly generic apartment buildings. Two thousand other homes will be razed to build public plazas and schools. Poor residents, who live in the smallest homes, already are being permanently moved to boxy, concrete public housing on Kashgar’s outskirts.
I've witnessed this displacement of the Uyghurs firsthand in Xinjiang, the westernmost province in China. I was detained for hours by the police in Urumqi for merely taking photos of people who were trying to share their story about exactly this type of gentrification. This has been going on for years; the earthquake alibi is a sham and everyone knows it.
The minority that gets the most press in the U.S. is the Tibetans, and their plight is indeed tragic (I've written about it here). But they are not alone. The Han majority in China will stop at nothing in the interest of economic growth as it pertains to settling their 1 billion-plus majority.
In the modern world, it has become a sad reality that the most special places become an obstacle to progress. I will miss the unique streets of old Kashgar town.
They are all that I have to share with those who want to know more about this place which will soon exist only in the past.
Also posted at The Laughing Planet