(Image: "Karakorum Highway, Xinjiang" by flickr user pmorgan.) For folks struggling to understand the current explosion of ethnic unrest in what the government of China officially refers to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, this Far East Economic Review essay by Calla Weimer may be helpful reading. Snip:
What makes Xinjiang so volatile is a simmering resentment by the native Uighur people against repression by the Han majority. Uighurs in many respects are denied the opportunity to live the life they desire. They are inhibited in the practice of their Islamic faith. They are limited in their access to economic opportunity. And, not unlike their Han Chinese counterparts, they are denied basic freedoms of expression and assembly.
China's ethnic-minority problems are deeply rooted, and resolving them will require change of a systemic nature. China is not a society that embraces pluralism. Difference is seen as a threat and little quarter is given to alternative points of view or ways of life. The government controls many aspects of people's lives and livelihoods, and local officials have a great deal of power within that context, power that is subject to abuse whether toward Han or toward minorities. But minorities suffer more under a system where prejudices can weigh on official behavior. This in turn brews resentment among those systematically victimized. An acrimonious dynamic builds and festers. This can happen with minority groups anywhere, but in China there is more scope for those who have power to abuse it. And there is no voice for those who have grievances.
All Eyes on Xinjiang (FEER, via @rmack)
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