Not a story about violent ethnic conflict

Girl in Kashgar, 2000

Having just posted that fairly bleak piece about the likelihood of further violence in Xinjiang, here’s a slightly more optimistic one from Radio Free Asia. It doesn’t seem to have been picked up by other news outlets, for reasons that emphasise what constitutes ‘news’.

On October 15th around 100 farmers began protesting in Kashgar against the high fees they have to pay the government to use land. They stayed outside the prefectural government building in Kashgar for 3 days, when the protest came to an end, but not in the manner in which such protests usually do in Xinjiang.

“We had expected armed to police to come take us away, but actually, top officials including the county secretary and village party chief came. Most importantly, they treated us very nicely,” Yusupjan [the leader of the protest] said.

Officials pointed out to the protesters that they would have faced harsher treatment a year ago, after ethnic unrest broke between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in Urumqi, the regional capital. Uyghur men faced widespread arrests in the ensuing crackdown.

“The official said, ‘As you know, if this were last year, you could have seen yourselves surrounded by armed police and your destiny would have been the detention center. But that time is over and such a thing will not happen again. Please listen to us, follow us to return home and we can discuss anything you want with you.’”

The officials are said to have done so, and to be considering the request. Whether or not the land fees get adjusted, this is a unusual story because there seems to be a) agreement from both sides about what happened and b) the protest ended peacefully. I also find it remarkable how candid the officers were about what would usually happen- let’s hope this is due to some general edict about the need for more sensitive policing in the region.

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