All posts filed under: Han Perspectives

The Changing ‘Bright Future’ of Han Life in Xinjiang

In 2014, in the middle of a neighborhood at the southern edge of Ürümchi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, there was a restaurant with a big red sign. In Chinese, the six-foot-tall characters read “BIG MEAT” (大肉 dà ròu), as pork is commonly referred to across China. The sign was an anti-Islamic political statement; it told everyone in the neighborhood that Han migrants had arrived and that they would not respect the values of the Muslims who called it their home. This Uyghur-majority neighborhood known as Dawan was one of the centers of violence during the July 5, 2009 protests. A large number of the Han migrants who were killed or injured during the violence came from this neighborhood. In the years that followed, many Han migrants moved from this neighborhood to majority Han districts to the north. Those who remained marked their space, signaling their defiance. The six-foot-tall sign was a statement regarding the type of “quality,” or sùzhì (素质), that was protected by the institutions of the city. Unlike many places in China, in Ürümchi, …

‘Uyghurs are so bad’: Chinese dinner table politics in Xinjiang

One of the things Lu Yin anticipated most about going home to Southern Xinjiang was the opportunity she would have to eat Uyghur food. Her family is part of a largely segregated system of Han-owned state farms, factories, mines, and oil fields known as the People’s Production and Construction Corps, or Bingtuan, yet despite this, their relative proximity to a major Uyghur oasis city means she has always considered Uyghur food a taste of home. But when she went back the last time, it seemed that all the Uyghur restaurants near her home village were closed. Undeterred, her uncle, a powerful Bingtuan official, said that he would arrange for her to have a home-cooked meal with a Uyghur family he knew. It was after dark when they arrived at a small mud-brick house covered with clay. There was a courtyard in the center, between two small rooms. In the back was a larger room, with a coal-fired cooking stove beside a raised platform covered with rugs. Like most homes in Uyghur villages, there was no running water inside the …

Hong Qi, the Uyghur Folksinger who grew up Han

The Uyghur Chinese musician and poet Hong Qi celebrated his forty-first birthday last May 6. He doesn’t know if that day was really his birthday. He said his mother just guessed. There is a lot that Hong Qi doesn’t know about his origins. He is one of those rare Uyghurs who grew up thinking he was Han. Hong Qi was born into a situation of extreme poverty. Hotan—the prefecture in the south of Xinjiang where he lived until age three—is the poorest prefecture in the nation. According to government statistics, in 2012 the average per capita income for the 2 million Uyghurs in Hotan was $183. Although he was born in a prefecture where the population was more than 90 percent Uyghur, Hong Qi didn’t realize he was Uyghur until he was 16. That was when his Han parents told him he was adopted. Like many military families in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, Hong Qi moved a lot as a kid. He spent significant portions of his childhood in Ürümchi. He read a …