Physical Changes in Xinjiang Due to the Riots | Xinjiang: Far West China

Physical Changes in Xinjiang Due to the Riots

August 2 | 5 Comments

Due to the fact that the internet here in Xinjiang has been cut for several weeks I’ve had plenty of free time to soak in all the stories I’ve heard, process what has happened, and do my own research on the subject of unrest in Xinjiang. During this time I’ve also been able to witness the physical changes that have been happening as a result of the July riots in Urumqi. Here are just a few examples from my small city 4 hours north of Urumqi:

  • Checkpoints have been set up at every exit point in the city as well as at various points along the major highways. Foreigners such as me must register our every movement.
  • The internet was cut around 7-8am on July 6th…sort of. Access to sites that are hosted on servers within Xinjiang (which happens to be all local news) are available but anything outside is gone. No email, Skype, international news, etc. It’s been terrible. Only journalists have been allowed internet access in Urumqi and apparently bloggers don’t count as “journalist” here.
  • International phone calls have been limited. According to officials it has been completely cut but we’ve been able to make and receive a couple calls, albeit after countless unsuccessful attempts.
  • On Tuesday, July 7th, a massive company of military vehicles and soldiers occupied Karamay, our city, on rumor that some of the Urumqi rioters had moved north.
  • That same Tuesday every office and store was closed as police constantly patrolled the streets due to the rumor mentioned above. Unaware of this lockdown, I innocently rode my motorcycle into a desolate downtown area to find a unit of over 150 police patrolling both major mosques.
  • All auxiliary entrances to our neighborhood have been padlocked, allowing passage only through a single guarded gate. Such is the case in every community in our city.
  • Rumors of bombs and buses burning have been circulating around the city but I have seen nothing and a friend who works for the local newspaper said nothing has happened.

I am dedicating the remainder of this week to this tragedy that has set every single person in Xinjiang on edge. Because of this communications blackout we are currently enduring, I don’t know how much of this is old news so please be understanding. Some is based on first hand experience during my trip to Urumqi soon after the riots while one will be an unconfirmed story that I find to be encouraging.

During this time, please feel free to fill the comment board with stories you’ve heard or opinions you have, but please do so without unnecessary accusations. This region of China has endured the awful grip of hatred for long enough; taking on this mantle is not heroic.

Finally, I will apologize ahead of time for a lack of personal pictures accompanying these stories. I am no professional journalist, and as much as I enjoy this blog I have no desire to part with my digital camera, or worse, with my personal freedom for the sake of a single photograph. Also, apart from scores of military personnel and some property damage, I have thankfully witnessed very little action.

My hope is that it stays that way.

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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  1. Just back from Urumqi. Very visible military presence. Groups of three armed police (SWAT apparently) are stationed every 200 metres or so on major roads. Intersections have larger groups of soldiers under canopies. Witnessed many army convoys on the roads as well. All of this in parts of the city that were not directly effected by the riots. Did not go to the Grand Bazaar area. On the whole though, relations and interactions between Han and Uighur appeared quite normal. People seem to be getting on with daily life.

    Digression: was reading at the weekend about the LA riots. A lot of similarities between the black communities reaction to Koreans and the Uighur reactions to (mainly) low-income Han Chinese migrant workers.


  2. Hello,

    thanks for the news. I hope you can write more soon. Also it appears your blog is harmonized now…

    I am a french in China and I try to contact one of my chinese friend in Urumqi, but no success yet, no Internet and seems his phone isn't working


  3. one more thing. for getting in touch with friends in Urumqi if not in China. Have a third person in another Chinese city arrange a conference call with you and Urumqi. Did this last night. Works a treat. A bit labourous, buy the alternative is no contact until after October 1.