Thursday, 25 June 2009

Demolition of Kashgar

One of the best memories of my trip to China in 2004 was a two-week stay in Kashgar, a city well known for its location along the Silk Road. Chinese authorities are now planning to demolish the old Uighur part of the town (See this New York Times article or this post on Frog in the Well ).

Authorities claim that the demolition is a safety measure against earthquakes and that the town will be rebuilt in a local "Islamic" style. They also state that since the old parts of town are too densely populated, the reconstruction will involve the transfer of many inhabitants to new dwellings elsewhere.

The concern for earthquakes is understandable in wiew of the Sichuan disaster, but I fear that the demolition also has political motives. Isn't it intented as a blow against Uighur culture and the milieus in which this culture has thrived? Hasn't Kashgar been singled out because of its role as a center of that culture and of Uighur separatism? The top-down process of the reconstruction will ensure that the old part of Kashgar will from now on be Sinicized, if not in appearance, then through the process of its construction. A resurrected town in "Islamic" style would not be the creation of local historical circumstances, but a gift from benevolent authorities - a symbol not of autonomy but of heteronomy.

I am happy to have been able to travel in China. To have seen the hutongs in Beijing before the Olympics wiped them away, to travel along the Sanxia (three gorges) before they were inundated by the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world. Just as glad as to have been able, during my lifetime, to have seen and walked through these dusty but hospitable alleys in Kashgar, so full of surprises, playing kids and tea-houses with beautiful wooden balconies.

How much say did the people affected by all these changes have in any of the decisions? Is progress that silences the voices of dissidents really progress?

1 comment:

  1. hej du eremitkollektivist!
    Kan jag dela din sida med varlden? Eller atminstone detta inlagg?


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