A brief primer on Xinjiang, China and riots there

When news first broke regarding the ethnic tensions and violence in Xinjiang, China, I was not familiar with the situation there.  I have gotten up to speed and wanted to post a few videos and links for you on the situation there.

Wikipedia (population nearly 20 million):

Xinjiang … is an autonomous region (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) of the People’s Republic of China. It is a large, sparsely populated area, spanning over 1.6 million km2 (comparable in size to Iran), which takes up about one sixth of the country’s territory. Xinjiang borders the Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Leh District to the south and Qinghai and Gansu provinces to the southeast, Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the west. It administers most of Aksai Chin, a territory formally part of Kashmir’s Ladakh region over which India has claimed sovereignty since 1962.

The Wikipedia entry goes on to say that the Uyghur people in the region are not Han Chinese but part of a group of Turkic peoples in central Asia (picture of a Uyghur girl here).  There is also a region breakdown by ethnic group. Wikipedia says that AIDS/HIV is a problem in the region: “With a population of about 20 million and an officially estimated 60,000 infections, Xinjiang has one-tenth of China’s AIDS cases and the highest HIV infection rate in the country.”

The region is important because of oil.  Like neighbouring countries like Kazakhstan, there is a lot of oil in the province and the Chinese oil companies want continued unimpeded access to it.

Paul Kedrosky mentioned this on 6 July:

There is an important energy (read: oil & gas) connection to the current riots in China’s Xinjiang province. While the region had been independence-minded, that is no longer conceivable to the Chinese leadership, with sad and unsurprising current results:

“The Chinese didn’t want to let Xinjiang be independent before, but after they built all the oilfields, it became absolutely impossible,” said one Muslim resident in Korla, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution by government security agents.


Backgrounder on the Uyghur people (Wikipedia)
140 killed in Western China after riots and security crackdown (Times)
Xingjian oil boom fuel Uyghur unrest (FT)

Other links:

Below are a few videos reporting on the violence in the province.  Last reports I heard said over 150 are dead.

Given the fact that it is just over twenty years since Tiananmen Square, I thought James Miles’ BBC documentary films and audio podcasts on that period would be relevant.  The links are below.

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