I have a letter in the new LRB (dated September 24) which expands on one of the major causes of unrest in Xinjiang: the massive resettlement of Han Chinese in the province, many of whom are part of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary organisation that has a controlling presence in both agriculture and industry in the region. I also respond to the claim (made in a letter responding to my piece) that the reports of atrocities during the riots in Urumqi in early July were in all liklihood true.
When I lived in Xinjiang I thought I understood how pervasive the XPCC presence was. In the process of doing only mild research, I have come to realise that I still underestimated the extent of their influence- they have their own TV station, they have built their own cities, and even have a parallel education system, from primary schools all the way up to university. Although parallels are often drawn between Xinjiang and Tibet, perhaps an equally instructive one could be drawn between the Israeli settler movement and the activities of the XPCC.