No Uyghur person ever spoke completely openly to us about the relation of their “ethnic minority” (though majority in Xingjiang province!) to China or their feelings about it. Still they told us a lot about the history of their culture and some of them were clearly hurt and felt mistreated in their individual culture by the powerful Chinese politics. And when already the facts told the unfairness of the situation they seemed to get scared and only gave hints by saying they didn’t want to talk further, we should see for ourselves…And we did.
We nodded to our friend Arslan who was studying in Chengdu and now visiting his family in the 3000 km away Turpan – one of the old important towns on the ancient silk road. We looked outside the window of the train winding through thousands of kilometers of desert, spotted a huge oil refinery every now and then in the middle of nowhere and resuming what he told us.
It had always been the Uyghur people living in the great desert land between Urumqi, Kashgar and Hotan. They had been invaded by almost every bigger dynasty or civilization since then. They “have been” Mongolian, Arabic, …. Now they all had to learn Mandarin in school and where still always treated as something worse everywhere in China and got the worse jobs. The area around Kashgar had always been their country. Still it almost never had officially been their country. They were a banished culture and were never given the chance to be an own proud country.
The oil rafineries belonged to rich Han Chinese people from further east. Arslan told us there was three times as much oil hidden under the Xingjiang desert than in the United States. A while ago the cities in Xingjiang (Kashgar and Urumqui) province had a 60 percent majority of Uyghur people. But the Han Chinese in this province are now allowed by the government the exception of getting more than one child so they can expand their influence through population.
We experienced many Uyghur people skeptic or even bitter and not very friendly to foreigners which we excused and understood because we imagined every stranger must appear like another potentially dangerous invader to them who might want to take something away from them again. From their deeply hurt and repressed culture.