All posts filed under: Editorial

A Petition for “the Disappeared” in the Uyghur & Kazakh Homelands in China

By Darren Byler and Tahir Hamut with the support of Concerned Scholars of Xinjiang Also available in Uyghur (ئۇيغۇرچە) & Chinese (中文) Based on mounting evidence it is clear that the Chinese state is engaging in the extrajudicial systematic mass detention of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities. This process resonates with the most horrific moments in modern history. Such processes have resulted in generational trauma and social elimination. They shattered families, destroyed native forms of knowledge and, at times, resulted in mass death. We call on Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, and Chen Quanguo, Chinese Communist Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, to immediately abolish the “transformation through education” detention system and release all Uyghur and Kazakh detainees and prisoners that have been “disappeared” without due process or legal representation. Provide complete and open transparency regarding the location of all detainees and facilitate an immediate process of freeing and reunifying them with their children and their loved ones. Release of all Uyghur and Kazakh intellectuals and prisoners of conscience.  Allow Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other minorities …

Navigating Checkpoints in the Uyghur Homeland

On a visit in April 2018 to the Uyghur homeland in Northwest China I was amazed by the number of checkpoints that turn every city and town into a maze of ethno-racial profiling and ID scans. In some areas, the checkpoints are every several hundred meters. The checkpoints are only for those who pass as Uyghur. Han folks and obvious foreigners are usually directed to walk through the exits of the checkpoints with the wave of a hand. The checkpoints are not for them. Since 2009 there have been a number of large-scale violent incidents involving Uyghurs, state security and Han Chinese civilians. Since 2014 the state has conducted a so-called People’s War on Terror that has subjected Uyghurs between the ages of 15-45 to intense scrutiny. As a result of this campaign, the state has detained hundreds of thousands of young Uyghurs in a reeducation camp system while radically increasing the police presence. At the checkpoint exiting the highspeed rail station in Turpan I observed the way “native” (Uy: yerlik) people were directed through two long lines to have their IDs …

An Introduction to The Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia

I first came to Xinjiang in 2003. At the time I was in the second year of an undergraduate program in photojournalism in my home state of Ohio. As part of my training I had the opportunity to travel throughout China, from Shenyang to Lhasa. It gave me a chance to try to understand the breadth and diversity of the space and get a feel for a profession and a country that would have a large impact on my life. Eventually I ended up in Kashgar. I had never seen anything like it: vibrant street life, warm and embracing friendships, a vibrant folk music scene, desert landscapes and Sufi shrines. The history of the place felt alive and vivid, but also fragile. It was also the only place in China where Han taxi drivers, shop keepers and hotel clerks assumed I, a white German-American, was a local Uyghur. That misrecognition, like the built environment, was also instructive. It taught me something about privilege and passing; and what the racial politics of Xinjiang might feel like …

The Best of 2016

It has been something of a slow production year here at the Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia. Dissertation writing, conference travel and website development have taken some time away from producing new content. Yet we did have a chance to be a part of Perhat Khaliq’s first visit to the United States. And over the past year we have published a few new pieces, including a long-form photo essay on the work of the Xinjiang-based Han Buddhist photographer Tian Lin and an in-depth essay on the way Uyghur young people are using  social media to critique government elites and ostentatious displays of wealth. Both of these two projects were two of our top five pieces in 2016. Below is a list of our top five most popular posts for the past year. Thanks as always for reading! 1. Ms. Munirä’s Wedding Gifts: Trolling Uyghur Elite Society Back in April 2016 the daughter of a well-to-do Uyghur border official in Kashgar, a woman known now simply as Ms. Munirä, got married. Like many weddings of wealthy Uyghurs, it …