Mysterious Mummies of Xinjiang

February 8 | 52 Comments

February 5th, 2011 was supposed to be a special day for the Penn Museum as it opened the final leg of a 3-city tour of Xinjiang’s “Secret of the Silk Road” exhibit. Camels circled the building and dancers took to the stage. The only thing missing at the museum that day were all the Silk Road artifacts – including the mummies.

The planning of the “Secrets of the Silk Road” tour, which has already stoped at the Bowers Museum in California and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, was a project that for some was over 10 years in the planning. Although both of these museum exhibits ran for their duration without problems, something has happened that caused Chinese officials to cancel any further displays.

Why China Canceled the Xinjiang Exhibit

The Beauty of Xiaohe, a Xinjiang MummyNaturally the first question that has popped into everybody’s mind is “Why stop the exhibit?” News reporters and bloggers have risen to the challenge of explaining this odd Chinese behavior and the reasons are as numerous as the people who think them up. Here are my favorites:

  1. The Mummies are…Caucasian! <gasp>: Out of London, The Independent reports that after a year of touring the US, the Chinese officials finally woke up and realized that the mummies have Caucasian features that might accidentally lead people to believe Xinjiang hasn’t always been part of China. Never mind that the Xinjiang Museum in Urumqi has a life-size reconstruction of the Beauty of Loulan that is obviously not Chinese…they just came to this conclusion last week.
  2. It’s Against the Law: Based on comments made by the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C., NPR reports that Chinese law allows for archaeological exhibits to tour overseas for no longer than 8 months. “We cannot go contrary to the law” says the embassy secretary. Umm…I think he’s been away from home so long he’s forgotten that Chinese laws are merely guidelines. That, or he has no clue what’s going on. Both are very likely.
  3. The Possibility of Protests: No, we’re not talking about the Urumqi riots here. I’m actually referring to a 1997 riot in the lesser-known town of Gulja that was also very deadly. Uyghur groups announced plans to stage demonstrations on February 5th, to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the riots. China hates anniversaries – this is an undeniable fact – but do they hate them this much?

The Penn Museum, ex-home to the Secrets of the Silk Road Exhibit If I had to place a bet, I wouldn’t waste my money on any of these theories. The fact is that the mummies are still on US soil and hopes are still high that a negotiation can be reached to still display the mummies at the Penn Museum.

Why would China cause such problems here? Just because they can. President Hu has left the country after being pressured to say that China has a lot to learn in the area of human rights and the politics surrounding this exhibit are sensitive already. Any “i” left undotted had the potential to halt this Silk Road tour and I doubt anybody is going to fess up to the mistake.

What Does This Mean?

In this debacle, nobody is winning.  So far, this is what is happening:

  • A paper mache mummy replacing the real Xinjiang mummy A “dummy mummy” made of paper-mache is being displayed in place of the “Beauty of Xiaohe” and the infant mummy. (The Inquirer – Philly)
  • The Penn Museum is offered a refund to anybody who had already purchased tickets. A scaled down exhibit is still being displayed, but it’s free.
  • If issues aren’t resolved and the exhibit never happens, both the Bowers Museum and the Houston Museum will have to fork over an extra $27,500 to cover the exhibit’s travel costs no longer shared by the Penn Museum. (LATimes)

If you happen to be near the Penn Museum, I hope you’ll show your support and still stop by for a visit. Like I said, it’s possible that the exhibit will still happen, so keep an eye on the Penn Museium website.

As for the questions surrounding the mystery of this sudden Chinese change of heart…don’t hold your breath for an answer any time soon.

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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  1. I commend the Chinese authorities for originally allowing the exhibition to proceed. Although after countless instances of ineptitude in the area of foreign public relations, one would like to think those same authorities have learned how capricious decisions like this undermine the goodwill generated by their original intent, in this case the willingness to openly share China’s cultural heritage despite the subtle political undertones of the exhibit.


    Josh on February 9th, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    I agree. It was a long time coming, but maybe we should be thankful that these artifacts made it out of China at all instead of worrying about one out of three stops :)


    Trevor Williams on February 10th, 2011 at 5:37 am

    Working as a reporter, I’ve been befuddled at the Chinese government’s complete lack of PR savvy. This move is particularly confusing. Why now, just after China launched its mega advertisement in Times Square as a way to focus more international attention on its people and rich cultural heritage? What happened to the newfound love affair with “soft power?”

    With a little positive spin, this exhibit could serve as great propaganda. Couldn’t the fact that the mummies aren’t Chinese be used – however disingenuously – to show that China has always tried to live harmoniously with other cultures?

    My guess is that the cancellation has to do with a combination of factors, some of which will never come to light. Anything can be used as a negotiating tool, and you’re right, Josh – everything is subject to change.

    The bottom line is that this is a sensitive region, and it has always been a trouble spot for the Chinese empire, going way back to the Tang Dynasty. I was interrogated by the police six times during a 2006 trip to Gulja and nearby cities – and that was before the Urumqi unrest. I also met some amazing people, and even some police officers who were happy to have me exploring their villages and towns. You never know what to expect in the wild northwest.


    Josh on February 10th, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Thanks so much for your comment, Trevor. Interesting to hear your perspective, especially considering your trip in and around Gulja. I was there in 2007 and like you experienced those who were hospitable and those who weren’t. Of course, I was there more as a tourist than a reporter!

    I also like your spin on the mummies and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it eventually go down that path. There’s no reason China shouldn’t embrace these artifacts. I think they made this a more prominent story by blocking the artifacts than if they had let everything go as planned. I agree, though…sensitive region.

  2. Don’t underestimate to the PRC government’s sensitivity to any implication that Xinjiang is less than utterly Chinese, or ever has been.

    See “Finetuning the Spin: China’s Awkward Not-so-Chinese Mummies” ( to see how much trouble the Chinese media goes to ensure that their own populace gets the right story.


    Josh on February 9th, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    You’re absolutely right, Bruce. And for those who haven’t clicked on the link he put above, I highly recommend you take a look. Bruce does a great job of showing censorship at work in Chinese media.

    My skepticism of the theory that political sensitivity is the reason for this mess is the fact that it made it through California and Texas without any problems. Why make trouble now? In the end it brings more media attention to these mummies than before (although China has proven time and again that they don’t get this concept).


    ChasL on February 12th, 2011 at 3:27 am

    In China these mummy are known for their European origin and it does not bring any doubt to China’s established sovereignty. Just search for “Xinjiang mummy” (“新疆 木乃伊”) on Baidu and see for yourself.

    This story is not censored at all. Does Native American artifact put our established sovereignty in question? Ridiculous anti-China media slant, that’s all.


  3. I totally forgot that I write this blog for you, Damo. Please forgive me. I guess I am required by some sort of invisible law to ignore anything interesting that happens in/about Xinjiang and ONLY write about travel. Key word “focusing more”, not “focusing exclusively”. Glad to know I’m scrutinized with such a fine-toothed comb.

    Doesn’t this in the least bit interest you? Wouldn’t you want to see the mummies if they came to your city?


  4. Actually the site does focus more on travel by any reasonable measure. If Josh never focused on anything remotely related to politics there would be nothing to write about. Actually, three comments above actually do give credit to the Chinese government for allowing the exhibition to proceed to the first two museum sites.


  5. I doubt that the cancellation of the exhibition has anything to do with the perceived China’s sovereignty over Xinjiang. Neither CCP nor pre-CCP Chinese governments ever claimed Xinjiang was part of China since the dawn of the civilization. The official line in government written history books claims Xinjiang became part of China since Yuan dynasty that was way later than the time of these mummies. Not only Xinjiang, but also large part of north China was once occupied by Caucasians – White Huns. It really reflects the hostility of the West toward China that ancient mummies are used to question China’s sovereignty over a piece of land. If the same logic applied to other nations in the world, none of the nations will have a clean plate of sovereignty.


  6. Plus, based on my knowledge, these original caucausian inhabitants of Xinjiang were exterminated/assimulated by the uyghurs who migrated from great mongolia area about 800 years ago.


  7. To Chinese Nationalist:
    I quote you : “Neither CCP nor pre-CCP Chinese governments ever claimed Xinjiang was part of China since the dawn of the civilization. The official line in government written history books claims Xinjiang became part of China since Yuan dynasty that was way later than the time of these mummies.”

    Here is a sample of what Xinhua (hence CCP) claims:

    “Since the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-24 A.D.), it has been an inseparable part of the unitary multi-ethnic Chinese nation.”


  8. It is a reconfirmation of Westen hostility toward China as a nation and Chinese as a people that one of the causes of this exhibition incident was speculated as that China felt its claim over Xinjiang threatened while the truth is that Professor Mair has been attacked by Uyghur separatists for his DNA test findings since they indicate that the mummies are not the ancesters of the majority of current day Uyghurs. That’s why China needs a strong nationalist movement. Only with blood and sword, can China protects herself and wins her dignity.


    Josh on February 16th, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Please do share with me where this claim about Mair and Uyghur separatists being the cause for this exhibit debacle can be found. I have read about it nowhere and you seem convinced beyond a doubt.

    By the way, thanks for that last sentence. I don’t even have to debate with you because you have already branded yourself as crazy for anybody who reads this.


    Chinese Nationalist on February 17th, 2011 at 2:02 am

    I didn’t say the Uyghur separatists was the cause of this debacle, did I? I was just saying it was ridiculous for you to suggest these mummies’ being “non-Chinese” was the reason for the exhibition cancellation while Professor Mair’s research was seen by some uyghurs as undermining their arguement for the land. Here is a link:

  9. “Congrats to Professor Mair, Dr. Hodges, and everybody else at the Penn Museum for making this exhibit possible. I’m sure they know the real reason for this whole mess, and I’m quite certain it won’t be revealed to the public any time soon.” (from Josh’s e-mail update)

    What a laugh. I’ll bet even Mair won’t be revealing what went on during the negotiations, including the reasons the Chinese side originally wanted to withdraw the problematic mummy.

    For the Chinese authorities transparency=glasnost, and we all know what happened when Gorbachev made glasnost official policy…


    Chinese Nationalist on February 15th, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    You obivious don’t know the research findings of Professor Mair and he’s unpopularity among overseas Uyghur separatists.


    Josh on February 16th, 2011 at 8:50 am

    How does his popularity or unpopularity with overseas Uyghur fit into this whole equation? I’m a bit lost.

    Chinese Nationalist on February 17th, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Because the first speculative cause given by you for the cancellation of the exhibition is totally false since Professor Mair’s research on the Mummies have been seen as undermining Uyghur separatists’ arguement. So in this case, politically these mummies don’t hurt Chinese government at all. By all the comments posted by westeners here explicitly or implicitly points to some type of fault or unspeakable dark secret on Chinese government for the cancellation of the exhibition.

  10. My last sentence is no worse than the “support our soildiers” stickers on the bumpers of cars in the US. Your country can spend more than the rest of the world to build an army and you still label the others who call for armed protection as being crazy. USA didn’t built these bombs to cure someone’s headache.


  11. “Only with blood and sword, can China protects herself and wins her dignity.”…
    Ok, so China has to kill us all to prove how it’s a peace-inclined, non-aggressive power, correct?


    Chinese Nationalist on February 17th, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Kill you all?! China isn’t the one sending its army all over the world to “protect” itself! It is the USA sending war ships to the door step of China. It is the USA financing the separatists in China. It is the USA invading other countries! You can do all the above but we can’t say we will protect ourselves with “sword” and “blood”?!


    Xemit on February 17th, 2011 at 2:42 am

    You do not seem to perceive fully the irony of advocating “blood and sword” when the official motto of China is “soft power”.
    Such rethorics is likely to convey the perception of China as an aggressive entity. I suppose that you don’t want China to catch up with the USA on this aspect.

    Chinese Nationalist on February 17th, 2011 at 3:17 am

    I am anti-CCP so what they convey is beyond my concern. My personal opinion is that “soft power” is an illusion. Without the backing of hard power of steel, there is no soft power. I am a nationalist not an imperilist. I am against any territorial claims beyond whatever China currently controls or sending Chinese army beyond our borders.

  12. I admit I kind of overread your post.
    So, about “I am against any territorial claims beyond whatever China currently controls”, should I understand that you support the independence of Taiwan? And should Mongolians be dealt with : since Mongolians in Inner Mongolia are part of “the unitary multic-ethnic nation”, what about the citizens of the Republic of Mongolia?


  13. Taiwan is not controled by China. So if the only way to incorporate it back into China is by using force, then let it be independant. Republic of Mongolia is an independant nation. I don’t even know why you brought up mongolians in inner mongolia. The reason I am against territorial expansion is because I firmly believe in today’s world it’s only going to hurt China.


  14. Chinese Nationalist:
    The reason I’ve brought up Mongolians and IM is because I feel much ill-at-ease with the concept of “one Chinese people” or zhong hua min zu (as I understand it).

    The “unitary multic-ethnic nation” notion implies that Mongolian ethnic and cultural features are included within the “one Chinese people”, and to some extent define it.
    And since there are no differences between Mongolians in IM and in RoM, the consistency would dictate to consider Mongolians living in RoM as Chinese.
    And yet, China does not put forward any claims over RoMongolia, or Kazakhstan, or Korea.
    So, I really get the feeling that a logic loop-hole undermines the “one Chinese people” concept, maybe because I don’t know on what criteria this concept is based.

    My guess would be that China as a whole would benefit from a POLITICAL project that does not advocate an ill-based ethnical or “peoplish” unity, that is viewed as a huge threat on the cultural identity of so-called “minorities”.
    If China want to win the hearts of so-called “minorities”, it should learn to trust them a little bit.

    I do hope that you will give me some explanations about all this (especially about the criteria to be included in the Chinese people) (no irony intended).


    Arjun on February 20th, 2011 at 9:15 am

    If you fear the potential takeover of MPR by PRC, then fear not Chinese Nationalist (who has already declared his opposition to it), but Nationalist China (i.e., KMT). For the latter has yet to relinquish its claim to “Outer Mongolia”. As to there being “no differences between Mongolians in MPR & IM”, remember that the former use the Cyrillic alphabet whereas the latter use the Tibetan alphabet. Also, the Mongolians in MPR speak Russian as their second language. Many Inner Mongolians (especially in the big cities) use Mandarins as their first language. If this trend persists, Inner Mongolians may one day go the way of the Manchus.
    Don’t forget also that there are Mongolians in Siberia. The Soviet regime forcibly deleted the prefix “Mongolo-” from “Mongolo-Buryat” so that they are now called simply “Buryat”. Furthermore, there are also Mongolian in European Russia in Kalmykia. So rest assured.


    Chinese Nationalist on February 21st, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    ZhongHuaMinZu concept was created by the then Nationalist Leader Sun Zhongshan to create a new national blue print for China largely based on the Japanese model, e.g. DaHe Minzu. Due to the limit of their political visions, nationalists back then could only devise the national identity based on the concept of “nationality”. CCP continued the usage of the concept since it failed to give the true citizenship for Chinese people. ZhongHuaMingZu was an antiquated concept of establishing national identy as opposing the concept of “citizenship”. It mean to make people feel sense of belonging based on the same nationality and not on the rights of citizenship. I understand where you are coming from. Many people see ZhongHuaMinZu as a sheme to sinicize the ethnic minorities. I personally don’t think that’s the case. Sinicizing is a reality but it is independent from this ZhongHuaMinZu concept.

    I am confused by your inner and outer Mongolia argument. China has had minority groups residing on both sides of its borders for the past many millenniums and it never became a reason for territorial claim.

    Cultural assimilation is a global trend with the western culture having the biggest impact. Yet, culture assimilation within China is being portrayed by the West as sinister. Fortunately, what the Westerners think and say about China doesn’t matter at the end.


  15. Arjun, don’t worry, I don’t fear the takeover of RoM by PRC.
    I have resorted to the different status of Mongolians between RoM and PRC to show that the concept of “one Chinese people” is shaky. I find it too equivocal to ensure the cultural autonomy of the non-Han minorities. “One Chinese people” leads, as a logical consequence, to perceive cultural features of minorities as hindrances on the way toward “peoplish” unity (which is a Han/Chinese unity, as demography dictates).

    I am not here to decide what the future of Uyghurs should be. I strongly believe that this should be THEIR choice, and trying to push this unity thing down their throats is the surest method to see Uyghurs reject China, in spite of all the infrastructures built.
    I’d rather relish the prospect of a plural China, which would federate all its nations within a respectful union of peers.
    If the main issue of China in Xinjiang is to ensure it will not break away, then I guess the best try is to let Uyghurs stay willingly. But this implies that Beijing hears their grievances, and does not label the attachment to Uyghur identity as splitism. Beijing, your move!


    Chinese Nationalist on February 21st, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    You have to see that the essence of the uyghur issue in Xinjiang is about land not culture just as it is about land not religion in Palestine. It is not the goal of China to assimilate uyghur. It is the goal of China to secure the land. During the process, some find it easider to secure the land by assimilate the uyghurs. So it will only push the assimilating process forward by advocating uyghurs’ special rights over Xinjiang. Many westerners see many Chinese national issues without any respect to China’s interests. If westerners really want to help uyghurs to preserve their cultural identity, they should start from rejecting any special rights of uyghur over land in Xinjiang just like they reject any groups special rights over any piece of land in their own countries. There can only be autonomous regions but not autonomous ethnic groups.


  16. Chinese Nationalist:
    I wrote : “If the main issue of China in Xinjiang is to ensure it will not break away…”, so I am also convinced that preserving the current borders of PRC is the ultimate goal. And just I feel that the European Union is an opportunity in terms of economic market and political weight for France (where I live), China could just be the same for Uyghurs.
    But, as you note, “some find it easier to secure the land by assimilate the uyghurs”, and I think that this is a strategical misconception. Assimilation is the shortest way to radicalisation, and to social or military unrest, what would definitely harm China’s reputation. Today, threats over Uyghur cultural identity overshadow any positive action that Beijing or the regional gvt could push forward. I guess that Uyghurs would adhere much wholeheartly to a Chinese project in which their cultural future remains within their hands.
    Just to give you a picture : If you like a girl, you will never make her fall in love with you by saying “Now, do as I command : you love me, and behave as I do”. Trying to seduce her by proving you’re interested in her personality should be the way to go.

    About “Many westerners see many Chinese national issues without any respect to China’s interests” : The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are justified by the interests of the USA. Yet, you condemn them. What is relevant is the methods used to protect one’s interests, not the interests in themselves.

    And about the worldwide assimilation in which the West is much to blame : of course the West has impacted so much so many cultures. In France, for instance, the French government has almost eradicated the Breton or Basque languages. No need to talk about Native languages in the USA… So, yes, the West has been such a burden for the world’s cultural diversity.
    China, as the self-proclaimed alternative global power, would consolidate its status by proving it has learnt from the West, and is decided not to make the same mistake again. Otherwise, one could think that China is like the West, just 100 years late.


    Chinese Nationalist on February 22nd, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Your arguement about the relationship between assimilation and stability is your idealistic thinking and is countered by the reality. There are numerous examples in China and around the world that supports the assimilation approach. Take mongolians in inner mongolia and manchus in manchurian as two most relevant example. So if we are only talking about the effectiveness in stablizing Xinjiang, assimilation is definately the ultimately long term solution. There may be discontent and event resistance in short term but with the overwhelming social, political,and economical advantage of han culture, uyghurs will lose out in this assimilation battle.

    However, we are obvious aiming higher here. We talked about the responsibility of a modern nation toward its people and larger humanity. Preserving cultural diversity just as preserving biological diversity, is the duty of mankind. That said. Let’s don’t forget about the hierarchy of needs. This type of moral fullfillment can only be realized when the lower levels of needs are fullfilled. When CIA and NED are still trying their best to destabilize China by support separatist groups, it is very hard for China to put the aforementioned moral responsibility at the top of its priority list. In my mind, westerners like you frustrate Chinese like me very much. I don’t doubt your belief in rights, freedom, and humanity. However, in reality, most of the regular westerners are not nearly as liberal hearted as what made out to be on the international stage. That’s why China has been labeled as the “competitor” by the US government and polled as the “enemy” among most americans. In reality, who give a shit about rights and freedom of people in China? People dont’ like China because of cheap Chinese products which they addict to while complaining about jobs being taken away and also because China is the one that dare to have difference with the US.

    China is indeed like the West 100 years ago because China is facing the issues the West were facing back then and only exacerbated by the meddling of the West.


  17. Damo: I think that you are being too harsh on Josh. He reported the tour only when it became newsworthy. That was the way with most of the news agencies. An otherwise routine, uneventful tour may have gone unreported.


  18. Josh,
    The only thing ticked me off in your post was your full of excitement speculation of the first possible cause of the exhibition cancelation – “the mummies are caucasian!”. In reality, the research on mummies doesn’t support the uyghur claims at all. To some extent, it confirmed the view that the ancesters of most of the current day uyghurs migrated to Xinjiang about 800 years ago. From my perspective, these mummies have nothing to do with China’s sovereignity over Xinjiang because they are too fuck old to be relevant to today’s affairs!

    However, you got excited!


    Josh on February 24th, 2011 at 3:04 am

    Ha! Sorry for the misunderstanding, but that exclamation point had nothing to do with excitement, it was sarcasm. People make a big deal about these mummies yet I agree with you – they don’t support Chinese OR Uyghur claims to sovereignty. They’re just really old people.

    I just thinks it’s funny when people think that China either doesn’t know these mummies weren’t Chinese or they think that China is trying to hide that fact. Both, obviously, are false.


  19. I did report on it being at both the Bowers and in Houston. I encouraged all FWC readers to go and I tried to see it in Houston in person to write about it. Unfortunately that trip never happened.

    There’s more to my efforts than just this website, you know. You ought to check the Twitter and Facebook feeds before you make accusations.

    Thanks again for continuing to read my writing. You say you dislike it…but you’re still here commenting on it so I must be doing something right!


  20. Chinese Nationalist :

    As I understand, you justify the assimilation by the fact tha the “overwhelming social, political,and economical advantage of han culture” will prevail anyway. I think one should deal the issue the other way around. If the duty of mankind is to perserve cultural diversity, then cultural assimilation should be stopped (I don’t mean citizenship integration).
    It’s a little bit like saying “There are so few pandas left now, they are doomed, so let’s stop all perservation actions, and let them die out”. Or “the Great Wall’s falling into rumbles, that’s the way things go in this transcient world, so there is no use trying to renovate it anyway”.

    Besides, I have never relied on human rights regarding the situation in Xinjiang. The point is that the Chinese gouvernment should abide by its OWN laws summarised in :
    “The autonomous organs in national autonomous areas guarantee that citizens of all the local ethnic groups have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to maintain or reform their customs and habits, and, according to law, guarantee that citizens of all ethnic groups enjoy freedom in religious belief. ”
    So, when you write that “it is very hard for China to put the aforementioned moral responsibility [ie, minorities’ cultural continuation] at the top of its priority list”, do you suggest that China can discard some laws at its convenience? What is then your definition of the “rights of citizenship” if some laws are to be deemed relevant or not at will? How can you expect anyone to accept such a state of facts?

    I’m sad to read that China is so weak that the CIA and NED can dictate their agenda to the Chinese gouvernment. If you want the minorities to learn that life is a struggle and that they have to adapt, hiding behind the interference of the USA to justify China’s wrong-doings is both childish and counter-productive.


  21. Oh, yes. CIA and NED are indeed powerful enough to dictate international affair, or at least make them very messy.

    I am with you on CCP’s dealing with the Constitution. CCP basically do whatever they feel fit regardless what the constitution says. In my mind, local education is a local affair especially for an autonomous region. If the local people elect the uyghur as the official language, so be it. Regarding the Xinjiang affairs, I have the following thoughts:
    1. Xinjiang should indeed be an autonomous region due to its uniqueness.
    2. Xinjiang is autonomous region means its governed by all its qualified residents disregard the ethnicity. So uyghur as an ethnic group should not have any special rights over others. This is also the common feature of autonomous regions in other parts of the world.
    3. Xinjiang as part of China has no right to limit the movement of Chinese citizens. People will have the full freedom move in and out or reside in Xinjiang as its full right residents.
    4. No affirmative action in whatever shape or form should be granted to any ethnic group.

    Of course, anything will happen until China turns democratic. Plus, uyghur activists have problems with items 2 & 3 as well.

    Ximit, you have to realize there is no “wrong doings”. It is just action and reactions. CCP employed liberal policies in 1980s and onl got back embodened uyghur nationalism.

    Law and constitution of a nation only apply and meaningful when the subjects accepts that nation’s sovereignty. It is clear that the current problem in Xinjiang is the rejection of China’s sovereignty over Xinjiang by uyghurs. Dont’ tell me they are only asking for “autonomy”. Just like exile Tibetans, “autonomy” is used just because “independance” is not possible at this moment. This type of “autonomy” of a particular ethnic group and their special rights over a land is rejected in the West but somehow demanded by tibetans and uyghurs and their western backers from China. In any case, what’s important is the true intention of the uyghurs and not what they have to settle on at this moment. As long as this type of rejection of responsibilities of being a Chinese citizen is rejected, the protection of the law and constitution can’t be gurranteed. No matter it is authoritarian CCP or future democratic Chinese governments, this won’t change.

    You alway explicitly or implicitly say the policies caused the discontent among uyghurs. I completely reject that. I read extensively regarding uyghr issues in china and abroad. The currrent struggle is a continuation of the historical struggle which has been fueled by pan turkist movement, pan-islamist movement, cold war, and current day China-West competition. CCP leader Hu Yaobang employed liberal policies in Tibet and Xinjiang since he has the same narrow libral view like you thinking the problem is the policies. Hu thought if we made uyghur live better in Xinjiang than Hans, they might be happy being Chinese citizens. Hu’s policy failed miserablly.

    In my mind, there is no easy solution to the current uyghur problem. The problem is historical, cultural, ethnical, and geopolitical. As long as the external factors remain unchanged, the problem will remain regardless what form of government China will have.


  22. Chinese Nationalist:
    If I read your post correctly, you let us think that you suppose Uyghurs as hypocrits (you tell us that they’re hiding their “true intention”, and that “autonomy” is just the toned-down claim on their secret agenda for “independence”). You project on this shaky basis that Uyghurs refuse to be Chinese citizens. On what you justify that they should be dealt with outside any Chinese legal frame.
    I find it funny to read that you first despise the CCP for it twisting the constitution according to its needs, and then claim that the Uyghurs should not be granted the protection of the laws in some cases.
    For Christ’s sake, Uyghurs ARE de facto Chinese citizens, whetever themselves or China (or you) like it or not. It is Chinese duty to treat them as such! And by the way, if they want autonomy, it is their constitutional right to do so. You can not judge them on mere intent. Or, after all, you just do like the American government which says “We can’t believe the Chinese when they say they want peace”.
    If I follow your logic :
    1) Uyghurs demand independence? Then they reject Chinese sovereignty. Then they can’t ask for the protection of the Law if some one mistreats them.
    2) Uyghurs demand autonomy? It’s a trick : what they really want is independence. Now see 1) above.
    3) Uyghurs demand nothing but being a full-fledged citizen? You’ll see that as soon as they will be given this citizenship, they will ask for autonomy. Now see 2) above.
    4) Uyghurs demand nothing but the continuation of the current policies? They really understand nothing at all : the shadows of pan-turkism and pan-islamism will always bring suspicion to bear on them. Now see 3) above.
    What a wonderful perspective for Uyghurs! I get the feeling that in your eyes, Uyghurs will remain suspicious because of their past military resistance, and for this reason, Uyghurs will never be considered as true and loyal Chinese citizens.


  23. Xemit,
    I think regarding the protection of constitution and laws, you are right. I should take back my word about rejecting sovereignty thus not having protection from constitution and laws since a country’s legal system does and should have provisions on treason and other seperatist actions.

    A problem regarding current day China is that its constitution is really outdated and irelevant since it was created in 1949 and since then the experiencement of nation building based on the constitutional blueprint has failed. The current constitution should be scraped or amended.

    One sour spot in the current constitution is the “xxxx autonomous regions”. This part of the constitution gives certain ethnic groups special rights over certain land which is fundmentally contrary to the concept of modern nation state and citizenship. If we look at other autonomous regions in the West, it is not hard to say that equal rights of citizens is upheld while the only change is the relationship between these regions and central government. In reality, this part of the constitution is not implemented for exactly the same reasons.

    I think it is futile to debate the situation of uyghurs in the current political environment since the current political system doesn’t follow the principles we agree on here, i.e. legal rights.

    What makes me feel pessimistic about the uyghur issue in China is uyghur’s desire for their control of Xinjiang and special rights over this land. If you deny this, I don’t even know what you are doing here since you know nothing about uyghurs. It won’t be allowed under a democratic Chinese government since it fundmentally voialets the rights of other Chinese citizens.


  24. Hi Nationalist
    All nice and right what you say. But that is not the issue.
    Right now –
    Uighur farmers are fined huge amounts, if they don´t send at least one of their daughters to mainland china to work. Would you give your daughter voluntarily to some communist recrutement agent?

    No Uighur below the age of 18 can enter a mosque or get religious instruction. But Hui can. Can you defend that?

    In the name of “bilingualism” Uighur schools are closed down

    Instructions in the schools are from now on only in Mandarin. Tens of thousands of Uighur teachers are being laid off. Can you defend that?

    Land is taken away from Uighur farmers and Han settled on them. Can you defend that?

    Finally about the Mongolians in China:
    I been there as well as in Xinjiang. It is true that China has succeeded in destroying a lot of their culture. But there is incredible hatred.
    You won´t know because you are Han. But to me people talk without being afraid.
    And there has been and is an ongoing environmental catastrophy which is basically caused by Han cultural arrogance. Real “Wolf Totem” I heard it is a bestseller in China. Or do they only publish a censored version there? If not read the end. That was ten years ago and it is getting worse and worse.

    The situation in Xinjiang is similar because the Chinese settlers do open wet rice farming and don´t use the quanats anymore. Result is unbelievable evaporation rates and a fast sinking water table.

    Finally I don´t believe there is any problem with these minorites staying within China. It is a huge country and former Chinese emperors have been able to rule there with the full cooperation of the locals. Why can´t they do today?


    Chinese Nationalist on February 28th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I suggest you to study Chinese history before debating with someone about China. Chinese emperors used ironfist to control the minorities. CCP has the most favorable policies to minorities ever in Chinese history and CCP policies toward minorities are better than most of the countries in the world. You keep a blind eye toward culture assimilation in the West and ignore the fact that culture assimilation is part of the evolution of human society. Your assertion of han people go to mongolian people’s land and destorying their lives and culture comes out of your fundmental rejection of China’s sovereignty over these lands. You can say Chinese people misused water resources just like the Americans misused their underground water in Mideastern US. As soon as you put hans against mongolians, there can be no discussions.


  25. Chinese Nationalist,

    Happy to read that you don’t support a legal black hole in Xinjiang! One Guantanamo is already too much!
    And “the current political system doesn’t follow the principles we agree on here, i.e. legal rights” is a lovely piece of understatement!

    That the Law should be the same for all, without distinction of ethnicity, gender, religion, etc, is the most basic rule for any democratic state. So we agree on this topic for sure.

    I think the issue is that self-determination and territorial integrity not always wholly fit together. And this accounts for a fair share in the complexity of the situation of Xinjiang.
    You write that “since [1949] the experiencement of nation building based on the constitutional blueprint has failed”. If you note that the constitution of PRC has failed in its attempt to build a nation, you acknowledge to some extent that there is no such “one Chinese nation” (or at least no OCN yet), and that several nations/peoples are coexisting within the PRC. The conclusion is that noone here denies that Uyghurs are a people, and are therefore entitled to the right to auto-determination.
    At the same time, as a recognized state, the PRC has the right to preserve its borders.

    Both claims are legitimate. The point is : How to define a political system which makes these two principles compatibles? I have no instant solution. But I sure know that independence is not a necessary condition for auto-determination, and that territorial integrity does not require cultural or “peoplish” uniformity.
    Just look at two examples at opposite ends of population scale : Switzerland and India. Several cultural and linguistical communities, yet a very, very strong national feeling (just look at the Indian madness for its team during cricket world cup). I find Assimilation to be the lazy solution : too complicated to make two peoples live together? Just suppress one people (identity, not individuals)! This logic is definitely out-of-step with the 21st century.

    I suppose that Uyghurs want to have their say in Xinjiang’s politics and to control their fate. That would be fair: they live in Xinjiang too, don’t they? When I read your last paragraph, I understand that you fear that Uyghur claims are beyond what can legitimately be granted to them.
    But this can not justify not to grant them what is legitimate! You can not restrict one’s rights on the basis that one MIGHT later break the law.
    Otherwise, you advocate preemptive actions, made famous by our common friend George W.Bush! But I don’t think so.


    Chinese Nationalist on February 28th, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    I think we agree on most of the points. I am not advocating preemptive measures against uyghurs. I feel pessimistic about the uyghur issue based on my contact with uyghurs in and out of China. In my view, there can only be two outcomes:
    1. The total independance of Xinjiang/uyghurstan. Han population disappears due to some events. China completely gives up or is not capable to keep Xinjiang from splitting away.
    2. Majority of uyghurs completely give up the thought of independance and accept the han people as equal right residents in Xinjiang.

    The path to these outcomes will be determined by many factors. At this moment, uyghurs are hoping for the former and hans are hoping for the later.


    Arjun on March 2nd, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Chinese Nationalist:

    I think that the possibility of the first outcome is quite remote now or in the foreseeable future. The best chance of Sinkiang Independence came between WWI and WWII. Recall the events: ROC was at its weakest, locked up in a civil war between KMT and CCP; Manchukuo was occupied by the Japanese; Mongolia gained independence, backed by the USSR; Tibet was de-facto independent, backed by the British Empire; and Sinkiang was was virtually in the Soviet orbit — just one step away from annexation by the latter. And then the tide changed: Japan was defeated; the USSR got battered and bloodied up front by Germany; the British withdrew from the Sub-continent; and the KMT fled to Taiwan. And later, the USSR was balkanized, rolling back its frontiers from Central Asia. And now: The USA is becoming bankrupt, unable to continue two wars in the Middle East while China gets stronger by the day. You see why.

  26. Chinese Nationalist :

    I am really amazed to read that you are not able to predict anything but the two outcomes mentioned in your posts. Many more possibilities exist in the range between your two propositions.
    I find your first point VERY pessimitic : why would all Han disappear? I do hope that you are not suggesting that mass killings could occur… Overseas Chinese have lived for century in Singapore or Malasia, and are not forced toward emigration to China.
    The gap between full independence and full integration is wide, and lets a lot of possibilities to be put into practice to satisfy both Han and Uyghurs demands.
    Your second points echos some of your previous posts, which shows a gloomy perspection of the situation in XJ if in case of a “Uyghur Power”, so to speak. You seem to fear that Uyghurs would favor Uyghurs, and Han would be treated as Untercitizens in a all-Uyghur environment. This situation would indeed be unacceptable. And yet, don’t you admit that this feeling of loss of control can be shared by Uyghurs right now? Han are having full authority over politics, economics, military, social and culture live in XJ.
    The point is not who is the more justified in one’s fears (separatism vs cultural annihilation), but how to work things out in a balanced, civilized manner.