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Qeshqer
30-05-09, 15:48
To Protect an Ancient City, China Moves to Raze ItBack to Article »


http://community.nytimes.com/article/comments/2009/05/28/world/asia/28kashgar.html?s=1&pg=1

By MICHAEL WINES
Saying it fears earthquake damage, the government plans to demolish and rebuild 85 percent of Kashgar’s Old City.

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1.May 28, 2009 8:33 am
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Considering that this city is an oasis for the Uyghur ethnic minority (i.e. reasonably free from majority Han influx), one wonders if Beijing's next move will be to raze Lhasa, capital of Tibet, and then "save it" by relocating it to downtown Shanghai.
— kreoth, cambridge,ma

Recommend Recommended by 69 Readers 2.May 28, 2009 8:33 am
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The future will look different.
Anyone who has travelled in China has witnessed the vast change from old and crumbling buildings to new, sleek and modern neighborhoods. Where there were small courtyard enclosed houses without plumbing there are now giant housing complexes with modern facilities. China calls it progress. Tourists, who come to look and leave, decry the loss of "history" although it isn't clear what history was made in these old neighborhoods.
Everywhere in the world the old is giving way to the new. Whether it's the loss of small towns on the river to a great dam project of the loss of Bagdad to American bombs we are loosing the diversity of an isolated past in favor of the homoginization of an integrated future.
The dogs bark but the caravan moves on.
— jsb, binghamton, ny

Recommend Recommended by 78 Readers 3.May 28, 2009 8:33 am
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The Chinese certainly are determined. To what end I'm not so sure.
— Don, Madrid

Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers 4.May 28, 2009 8:33 am
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I visited Kashgar 20 years ago. It was stunningly ancient, beautiful, and vibrant. Even then, the government was starting to raze houses and build the highway. The locals whispered their suspicions that the government was trying to curtail anti-government movements.

But it's frightening what they're doing now. There are so many other strategies to deal with impending earthquakes. This is one of the most historic towns in Central Asia, and its sad that international agencies like UNESCO are powerless to do anything.

The image of happy Uighurs dancing in front of new concrete apartment epitomizes the government's frightening yet successful attitude towards ethnic minorities: sing their praises publically, then take away their rights and do anything you want, but put it in the name of what lovely people they are.

In the '70s and '80s, the government sent "researchers" countrywide, to "record" ethnic minority music and dance, supposedly to "preserve" it. They did nothing to preserve these forms; instead they taught local and national arts troupes to perform western-style ballet-like dances with kitschy ethnic movements thrown in, w brightly colored costumes, and forced smiles. All while these art forms were encouraged to die out. All in the name of preservation. The sad thing is, many of the minorities affected bought it, because the message was drilled into them daily.

So what can we do in this situation to call attention to this travesty?
— Ayesha, New York, NY

Recommend Recommended by 85 Readers 5.May 28, 2009 8:33 am
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This is a terrible action. It is a form of genocide, taking away a peoples' culture. I am throughly opposed to this arrogant action!
— Marilyn Schwartz, NY NY

Recommend Recommended by 42 Readers 6.May 28, 2009 8:41 am
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China is clearly a Power to be reckoned with. However, I do feel that the overwhelming desire to puree and homogenise those who exist at the fringes of their Empire, is short sighted.

Aly-Khan Satchu
www.rich.co.ke
Twitter alykhansatchu
— Aly-Khan Satchu, Nairobi Kenya

Recommend Recommended by 20 Readers 7.May 28, 2009 8:41 am
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China has Sinicized that other great Uighur city, Urumqi, through population transfer. Now, they skip over the ruins of Chinese cities elswhere, to create an excuse to extend their cultural destructive reach to an area Chinese transplants are reluctant to go.

This is tragedy.
— Banty, Upstate New York

Recommend Recommended by 27 Readers 8.May 28, 2009 8:41 am
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In Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree...oh well. I dreamt of Kashgar long ago, it seems; 1968. Inaccessible. But then, they built the Karakorum highway. People should go and see before it's all destroyed.


— ZhikoAOK, Jamestown, VA.

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 9.May 28, 2009 8:41 am
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Another abhorrent act by the Chinese government. They are ruining a world heritage site. That a country who stage the Olympics so beautifully, and mindful of their past, to up and destroy a museum piece such as Kashgar is mind boggling.
— Martin La Toad, Chicago

Recommend Recommended by 30 Readers 10.May 28, 2009 8:41 am
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China has been ethnically cleansing for years.
By moving it's more Chinese citizens West, to break up majorities that are less - Chinese.
Are they evil, or merely "becoming" as a nation?
It is both difficult to know, and harder still to speak of this, as our own history of manifest destiny is as atrocious. The Mormons are in Utah for a reason, as are the Native Americans in lands unfit for farming.
At the end of the day, it is their nation, and like Iran, within their borders; they choose who to be. Once they move out into the world, they they are in play, and the world must begin to speak with one voice that reverberates beyond the UN's impotence.
— tillzen, El Paso Texas

Recommend Recommended by 31 Readers 11.May 28, 2009 8:41 am
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A gem of a city and a fascinating way of life being destroyed by the usual stupid old Chinese bureaucrats.
— Nat Solomon, Bronx, NY

Recommend Recommended by 23 Readers 12.May 28, 2009 8:41 am
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As usual, the Chinese leadership replaces an architectural and cultural gem with characterless blocks of ticky tacky. Obviously, the fact that the Uighur separate movement survives is the main reason for the rape of Kashgar.

— Nat Solomon, Bronx, NY

Recommend Recommended by 32 Readers 13.May 28, 2009 8:41 am
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So the city's been there for centuries but it could be destroyed at any time?

I bet the new "improved" architecture won't last centuries.
— Chad M, San Jose, CA

Recommend Recommended by 53 Readers 14.May 28, 2009 8:41 am
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This strikes me as very similar to the US policy of "saving" Iraqi civilians from Saddam, by killing a few hundred thousand of them and "rebuilding" Iraq, bringing modernity and "democracy".
— Paolo Martini, Milan, Italy

Recommend Recommended by 84 Readers 15.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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You think US = Evil Empire? Wait till the Chinese have their "Peaceful Rising."
— PY, NY

Recommend Recommended by 18 Readers 16.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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This is all about Han control of the minorities, thinly veiled as "modernization".
— Lucky So-and-So, Toronto

Recommend Recommended by 26 Readers 17.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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The reason the govt is providing to raze the house is questionable. But the disheartening part of it is not providing sufficient money to people to rebuild it by themselves.
The thing that worries me the most, if they could do such injustice their own people, imagine what will happen if they become super power.

Chinese government has improved its skill to do good trade dealings internationally but has done a poor job with rights of its citizens. It is becoming another headache like middle east. But the problem is not the people but the government itself.

— SMP, NJ

Recommend Recommended by 10 Readers 18.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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I don't know what China is going to do with Kashgar exactly and what the future of kashgar will look like. I do know one thing that is Tuskegee, AL and many African American towns are well 'preserved' so as their income and living standard.
— blinded1, USA

Recommend Recommended by 60 Readers 19.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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These are old, ugly, unsanitized and dangerous buildings. Why should these people live live animals in the 21st century? These are human being, not animals to be entertained by tourist, whom all live in modern buildings.
— paul, nyc

Recommend Recommended by 134 Readers 20.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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I guess the Cultural Revolution never ended.
— Brandon, Ohio

Recommend Recommended by 18 Readers 21.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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My husband and I were lucky enough to visit Kashgar in 2006. We fell in love with that city, fell in love with each other in that city all over again. Out of all the cities we visited in Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, it is the one that captured the spirit of the Silk Road the best.
I have not been so devastated by a news item in a long time. I am enraged that so many have so willingly picked up the Tibetan flag yet left the Uyghurs, their culture and their people, to be so thoroughly raped by Chinese administration. We as a collective have already lost so much in the Uyghurs loss and I see the destruction of Kashgar's old town as a final solution to the Uyghur problem. They have already destroyed most of what those cities around the Taklaman had to offer.
I understand that the powers that be have let this happen under because Uyghurs are Muslim but their history includes much much more than their relatively recent Islam. Caucasian history is well-woven into this part of the world.
Razing Kashgar's old town will be no less of a loss than the destruction of Bamyan's Buddhas. I hope we will not sit idly by and let this happen.

— Elle K., Somewhere Else

Recommend Recommended by 61 Readers 22.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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Further evidence of the baseline immorality of the communist regime. Unless mindset of its rulers changes, the West will have hell to pay in the future for feeding this monster while it was small.
— joe, new jersey

Recommend Recommended by 13 Readers 23.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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I worked in historic preservation all my life. This is a travesty--but it's not very different from the way many Americans want to "restore" old buildings. I finally threw in the towel professionally, mostly because I got tired of trying to educate my clients about the difference between truth and fiction. They didn't want to know.
— Anne W., Washington State

Recommend Recommended by 23 Readers 24.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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I was fortunate to be in Kashgar in 1997. It still stands out as a wholly unique space, one of the most astounding cities I've been to in my life. The Sunday Market is/was overwhelming.

This is, indeed, very much akin to the Manifest Destiny policies of the US in the 19th centuries; perhaps, as Paolo suggested, akin to current US policies; and similar to China's destruction of Tibet and Lhasa, the Three Gorges region, the hutongs of Beijing, and probably many other areas I don't know of. It is, perhaps, as tillzen suggests, one of the means of becoming a nation -- razing its past in order to construct the image of a more unified present, forcing minorities into majority culture -- but it is not the only means ("Modernity" means many things, jsb). There are other ways of imagining a community, and this is yet another example of this era of the Chinese government's pitiful, failing, destructive and genocidal imagination.
— Andrew M., Madison, WI

Recommend Recommended by 33 Readers 25.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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What a tragic plan. A thousand years of culture and history integrated through the physical space and architecture of the Old City. It will be a great loss for the Uighur people. Indeed it will be a loss for us all as the atrophy of our global cultural heritage sites continues.
— Kylie Brauer, New York, NY

Recommend Recommended by 21 Readers

26.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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The Chinese government should take some advise from Eastern European governments on how popular the new/modern buildings will be once the next generation has grown up and seen more of the world.

This is horrible ignorance of the effect of architecture on social life.
— lily, new york

Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers 27.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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the chinese do not have the architectural know-how anymore to rebuild it. they are masters in destroying buildings, though. meanwhile, things like this go on to a lesser extent here in the states, and not much is done either.
— Andrei, New York

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 28.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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China is not the land of weekend escape for Western Yuppies, and is not going to refurbish some quasi “ancient relics” for competing tourism dollar with other formerly colonial nations. China opts to quantum leap centuries ahead of rest of the world.
— S. C., Mclean, VA

Recommend Recommended by 51 Readers 29.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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Great article. Maybe the NYT could become the "Dalai Lama" of the ooy-gurs. Since one cannot hear a peep out of this region in the average media, the Chinese have been busy bees at ethnic cleansing. When the Communist Party's geographically and historically inaccurate claim that the region had always been Chinese was proven wrong by various archeological finds, they methodically curtailed all such activity. The Party's next brilliant move was to send heavily subsidized "pioneers" to crowd out the ooy-gurs. This agricultural assault has absolutely destroyed any further kind of sustainability of the already fragile eco system. The "pioneers" have mostly returned home east. This latest attempt is to wipe out any remaining means for the ooy-gurs to eke out a living. The living result of the eco devastation laid by the Chinese "pioneer" activity is the scourge of sand storms which take off from the Kashgar land and suffocate life in Beijing, as has been proven by the Chinese scientists themselves in the sand samples collected. If this further razing of an ethnic people's livelihood makes them snap, who can the Chinese Communist Party blame but its self? Of course, that's not likely to happen. The over all global order of things is such that when the practically-ancient gypsy quarter of Istanbul is razed because they don't pray the way the government officials do, and there's barely a blink in the news. Who's got time for ooy-gurs and gypsies? Who's going to go against the US allies of globalization?
— levent, Upstate NY

Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers 30.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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Take down 95% and only save the best 5% has been the redevelopment standard for years. You have to remember Paris (1853), London (1666) and Chicago (1871) was once torn/burned down and rebuilt into the city it is today. India’s slum is a good example of no redevelopment and just let the city grow at its own pace.
— AmatureHistorian, NYC

Recommend Recommended by 68 Readers 31.May 28, 2009 9:20 am
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I did ethnographic research in Kashgar in 2001 and wrote my thesis on Chinese development projects in Xinjiang. Kashgar is the most religious city in Xinjiang, the center of the Uighurs' cultural heritage, and arguably therefore also the center of the resistance against the Chinese.

The Chinese had recently built the ring road and the encircling sea of "toilet buildings" as people call them - cement and white-tile Stalinist-style tenement buildings - inhabited by Han migrants (and which are certainly not impervious to earthquakes, as we saw in Sichuan), which seemed to be constantly pressing inward on the old city and its mosque. The Uighurs bemoaned that it was probably a matter of time before their final enclave was destroyed. That time has unfortunately come, eight years later.

The Communist Russian and Chinese empires were more successful than others at patching together huge swathes of land and people because they understand cultural warfare. The Party utilizes schools, media, migration, the calendar, and urban planning as foremost weapons to artfully control the outcomes of history. Of course, this is always backed up by the big stick of the military, and there were massive military parades and displays, as well as a public execution, while I was there. All of these things are constantly couched in universalist claims revolving around fairness, security, economic development, and especially "progress" vs. "backwardness".

It's not as easy to analyze their policies as when you look at at Mugabe, for example, but these projects are very clearly a form of acculturation and social control.
— Joshua L, NY, NY

Recommend Recommended by 39 Readers 32.May 28, 2009 9:44 am
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The city has lasted through 1000 years of earthquakes and NOW the Chinese Dictators are worried? How about the Great Wall? Would China apply this policy to anything they revere? Absolutely not! This is, plain and simple, just another example of the supposed superiority the Chinese feel for themselves - everyone else is a barbarian.
— bob F, Placerville, CA

Recommend Recommended by 15 Readers 33.May 28, 2009 9:44 am
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By this logic, we shold congratulate the Taliban for destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas; they, too, could have collapsed at any time (despite the fact that they stood for nearly 1,400 years).

The Chinese government is well and truly intent on imposing its cultural will upon all territories it claims as its own. Rest assured that I have NO desire to see gaudy, new buildings built in the "Islamic style" and turning Kashgar, like so many other city centres in China, into a tacky "cultural" themepark.
— John F, London

Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers 34.May 28, 2009 9:44 am
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Exactly how is this different from the widespread U.S. attitude towards New Orleans?
— Andy Hain, Carmel, CA

Recommend Recommended by 20 Readers 35.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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When will the Chinese government announce the razing of Han dominated earthquake prone cities in central China to "protect" the citizens?
— gp, chicago

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 36.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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This happens constantly, old original buildings that are supposedly preserved are knocked down and replaced with generic fakes. Of course some are dilapidated and can't be fixed, but numerous important, livable, fixable, useable historic structures are destroyed purley for the sake of profit and petty politics. China's future generations will wonder why.
— Mike, Nanning, China

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 37.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Kashgar's mayor asks: “What country’s government would not protect its citizens from the dangers of natural disaster?” Hmmmm, New Orleans, anyone?
— kevin, Canada

Recommend Recommended by 20 Readers 38.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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After studying the Chinese Cultural Revolution, it amazes me that China is still destroying there cultural goods and heritage. Although this is not an official campaign to destroy the 'Four Olds' (Culture, Customs, Habits, and Ideas), I feel that it the recent steps made by China reflect this Maoist dogma, albeit in a modern light. It is a shame that they will not save these buildings.
— ,

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 39.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Following this sort of intelligence
I would imagine 70% of Italian cities
should be eliminated this way and rebuilt
with Modern post Franklin Lloyd Wright engineering.
Nonsense!

— Carlyle Trevellian, NYC

Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers 40.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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It was already done in germany with the bombing of Dresden by the americans. Dresden is now rebuilt. This is perhaps why americans like to watch the demolition/implosions of almost anything that is not economically profitable and like to have the old centers of their towns go rotten.
— murmillo, Italy

Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers 41.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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I wanted to visit this part of the world some day as a tourist, now there is less reason to do so. What a tragic loss of history and culture
— sharon Hester, Flagstaff AZ

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 42.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Um....didn't we do just that, in a different way of course, to the Native Americans of this country whose culture was so threatening and different from ours?

As Joni Mitchell sings: "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got'till it's gone...they take paradise, put up a parking lot...."
— Anne Gayler, Monroe, NY

Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers 43.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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The rest of the world can weigh in on China's actions, but the government's goals will not be thwarted. What can we do? Buy American?
— PamelaC, New York

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 44.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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This is another NY Times' "Damned if they do, Damned if they don't" China bashing article. I wouldn't be surprised that next month there will be an article portraying that the Chinese government develops modern high apartment buildings for the Han Chinese while not modernizing the lives of the Uyghurs whom live in these old, dilapidated huts in utter squalor.
— PC, Brooklyn, NY

Recommend Recommended by 80 Readers 45.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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In 50 years China and the world will regret this short-sighted and insensitive decision. Part of what's wrong with our (American) society is the loss of a heritage -- physical and cultural -- and the roots and emotional stability and peace that it brings. To walk ones ancestor's paths, to sit at the same table, and open the same windows is to feel a connectedness with the past and the future that transcends modernization and the hurry and meaninglessness of our lives today.

Shame on them. And shame on us for making it economically possible.
— S Sloane, ME

Recommend Recommended by 18 Readers 46.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Clearly a plan to exterminate and dominate both a region and an ethnic minority. Typical.
— KH, IA (soon Seattle)

Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers 47.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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doesn't seem too different from the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas. Another type of extremism at work...
— vishal, ahmedabad, india

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 48.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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The tragic irony is that these actions are taken by the government in the name of protecting the people.
— aaron, d.c.

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 49.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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I wish the author had found someone to question validity of the fear of earthquakes line the Chinese government is taking to justify this.

It sounds awfully dubious: over the centuries these homes have, one supposes, survived multiple earthquakes. Will the Uighurs really be better off in PRC-issue blocks of flats?
— Thomas, Brooklyn, NY

Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers 50.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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It sounds so awful doesn't it...a monolithic government displacing people from their ancient, picturesque (to those of us who don't have to live there), and historic dwellings.

The reality is that these are old mud structures with no sewage, fire hydrants or garbage collection, havens for disease and built over an earthquake plagued geological fault.

Maybe we should all take a deep breath, put away our tourist cameras and self-righteous indignation and understand that ultimately, the people will benefit by becoming part of the 21st century.

I mean who among you would want to live like your ancestors did 500 years ago?
— Jason B., Massachusetts

Recommend Recommended by 121 Readers

51.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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How stupid of those Chinese to want to modernize a part of the country that has no sewage system. Now the rich American tourists cannot visit and think how fabulous this is. Time marches on and the worst impediments to needed change are the historical preservationists who wish to preserve the past like a fly caught in amber, for whom the status quo is sacrosanct. Tear it down and rebuild. Buildings are nothing more than utilitarian structures. Take pictures if you like but it is time to move on.

— MichaelF, Yonkers, NY

Recommend Recommended by 56 Readers 52.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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The destruction of this old city is just another form of genocide against an ethnic minority. Genocide like this breds hatred. The Chinese are going down the well trodden path towards self-destruction......
— Susan, New York

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 53.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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I had a chance to go to Kashgar last year, and I passed it up. I highly regret that decision now. I understand that almost every modern city needs to go through "urban renewal", but I would guess that the new buildings they put up will be more prone to earthquakes and have a much higher percentage of Hans than before.
— Jeff007s, Chicago/Santa Fe

Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers 54.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Weren't all the buildings that fell down in the earthquake new shotty goverment buildings like schools and public housing? These ancient buildings have stood for 1000s of years and have probably survived countless earthquakes. Another doubtful excuse by the Chinese for their dubious actions.
— paulk101, cminor

Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers 55.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Amazing! Why do the authorities not tear down and re-build Han areas?

Will there be any mosques included in the new modern city?
— Willy, Canada

Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers 56.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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All well and good to question the government's motives and abilities (there and here). But clearly this city and its people deserve better.
— RP, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 57.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Yes, this is ethnic cleansing. Anyone who appreciates the relationship between ethnic identity, power of place and sacred space would condemn this plan to erase a major reproduction mechanism of Uighur ethnic minority -- their historic built environment at Kashgar. Demolishing Kashgar's traditional city architecture and layout removes its power as a teaching and memory device to reproduce Uighur ethnic identity and its spirit of group integrity (and resistance to assimilation by hostile Others -- in this case Han Chinese). Read The Word in Stone (UC Press, 1974),Langdon Winner's "Do Artifacts have Politics?" and The Architecture of Ideology (UC Press, 1987) to understand the profound political implications of systematic architectural demolitions by hegemonic tyrants. Destroying a ethnic people and their group identity by systematically destroying their historic built environments and sacred places is indeed ethnic cleansing and genocide. Jim
— Jim, Toledo

Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers 58.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Have you lived in a house like people in Kashgar? Do you know how inconvenient it is? It's easy to say preserving cultural heritage while you are enjoying the mordern facility. It seems to me many houses have been razed(if you like the word) even in New York. It's not like this when business man from England first came there. And I bet there were many traditional thing to be treasured in Manahattan or New Amsterdam.

What if you live in those houses and preserve the gem. Be careful about the earthquake!


— Sharon, NY

Recommend Recommended by 60 Readers 59.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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This has nothing to do with earthquakes (why aren't they tearing down half the villages in Sichuan?) and everything to do with control. The Hans have moved into many other parts of in Xinjiang, but still haven't infiltrated Kashgar's old town, which remains primarily Uyghur. Also, in the event of a Uyghur uprising, something the authorities in Beijing are very worried about, Kashgar's old town is the one place the Uyghurs would have an advantage when fighting the PLA. I guess the Chinese view that it's better to "peacefully" destroy the old town now rather than bomb it later.
— Matthew, Bloomington, IN

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 60.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Historic site????
Have you lived in a place with no bathroom and no sewer?
This is not a historic site. People live there, not ghost.


— David, NY

Recommend Recommended by 72 Readers 61.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Why suddenly there is an urgency to "protect" the people in Kashgar from an earthquake when the same government repeated denies any connection between poor construction and the high death toll from the earthquake in Sichuan?

Just yet another excuse to erode the Uighur culture.
— Marie, Hong Kong

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 62.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Another brilliant move by the Chinese government.
— Melissa, Philadelphia

Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 63.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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They do not build their new buildings (schools, etc.) to withstand earthquakes.
No, the key to this article is in this sentence: "Chinese security officials consider it a breeding ground for a small but resilient movement of Uighur separatists who Beijing claims have ties to international jihadis. So redevelopment of this ancient center of Islamic culture comes with a tinge of forced conformity." This is another form of ethnic cleansing. They never have nor ever will want the history and culture. They want to obliterate it all.
— dkatie, portland, oregon

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 64.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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China is behaving, from Tibet to global warming to this example of ghettoization, like the tragedies and lessons learned from the colonialism and ethnic hegemonies of the 19th and 20th centuries never happened. We can continue behaving like a 19th century industrial, ethnic and colonial power because we need to catch up to the West. Whatever happened to 'never again', to borrow a phrase from one singular example of 20th century imperialism/ethnic hegemony?
— AD, Chapel Hill

Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 65.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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If so many people really love the ancient houses as they claim here, why don't you live in the places built by mud and straw, without waste collection? See how long can you last.

The level of hypocrisy is astonishing here. To just satisfy your curiosity, somebody is willing to let others live like an animal.
— Johnson, Iowa

Recommend Recommended by 74 Readers 66.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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"To Protect an Ancient City, China Moves to Raze It"

Just like the Three Gorges Dam was built to prevent flooding? Whole lot of good that did.
— V, NYC

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 67.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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As an artist I am stunned and saddened that anyone could destroy a place of such beauty, never mind historical and cultural significance.

Does anyone know what we as US citizens can do to help Kashgar? Contact our congressional representatives?

What can be done?
— Kate, D.C.

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 68.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Having had the opportunity to be in Kashgar in 2001 and again in 2003, I can report that the Han urban renewal project was then well under way. The Chinese neither like nor trust their Uighur "brothers." Supposedly an autonomous province, Uighurs are in fact bereft of political power. If a talented Uighur wishes to get a decent job, he needs to speak Mandarin. In the main bookstore in Urumqi, it is hard to find books printed in Uighur.

Kashgar is located at the end of the Afghanistan "goose neck," and thus makes the Chinese extremely nervous about the incursion of Islamic fundamentalists. There have been several outbreaks of violence in recent years. Thus, while on can understand the Chinese desire to "contain" the Uighurs, the end of Uighur culture in that historic outpost of the old silk road will constitute a tragic loss. To wander not just the many corridors of the world famous Sunday bazaar, but also the intensely beautiful tree-lined lanes of the city's outskirts has been one of rare jewels that travel in China afforded.
— Vincent Amato, New York City

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 69.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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I am surprised at how the author hardly touched on the 'earthquake' aspect of the plan. It is perfectly alright to condemn the razing and rebuilding if geologists(were any consulted) agree that no fault lies near the city. But if an earthquake may be imminent, then China is backed up against a wall between neglecting to protect the Uigher community and destroying their cultural heritage.

In a post 2008 earthquake China, would you risk the devastation and human toll of the 2003 Boxing Day Earthquake in Bam in the name of cultural preservation? Or would you deem it an acceptable risk.
— Justine, New York

Recommend Recommended by 20 Readers 70.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Pretty dramatic to call it cultural genocide. Rebuilding is happening all over China regardless if they're in ethnic minority areas or not. Beijing's old hutong are being rebuilt with indoor plumbing, heating and modern amenities. The question is if the city can rebuild it back to it's original state.
— Frederick S., Toronto

Recommend Recommended by 22 Readers 71.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Nothing that China does to it's minorities surprises!

The Uighur people have endured much during the past six decades of Chinese rule. They are being outnumbered by the hordes of Han Chinese immigrants & settlers. Although the Chinese deny it, their Religious & Cultural Rights are often ignored & dismissed. It is illegal to teach your children about Religion (Islam) untill they are 18 years old (too late by then).
Even the time zone is set by Beijing (two or three time zones away), meaning children have to go to school at 11am.
I suspect that Kashgar is being targeted for demolition, to make it easier for the Security Services to drive their armored vehicles & Tanks through the old City of Kashgar!!
Nothing that China does to it's minorities (not even the Demolition & Destruction) Surprises me anymore.

Peace, Love & Respect.

— BINSAFI, Southern California

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 72.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Believe me if Uyghurs had been Budhists then we would be having a march in Washington to express the outrage. But huh, they have terrorist amongst them, let them be razed.
— TM, CA

Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers 73.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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It's saddening but not surprising. The Chinese have long been intent on enforcing their preferred cultural norm on the outlying parts of their empire. They truly know the meaning of the words 'divide and conquer'. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - the 'many' in this case being the rest of the Chinese people...
— Kajikit, FL

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 74.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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It's truly ironic that many American commentators have decried the Uighur resettlement while conveniently overlooking their own real and murderous ethnic cleansing of Native Americans and their resettlement on reservations.
— Diogenes, San Francisco

Recommend Recommended by 25 Readers 75.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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I grew up in Taiwan where a century old arch/gate was not only painted over but marked with the logo of the political party which had been famous for its pro-China policy. The way China did it to the Taiwanese started with some politician turned "consultant" to open the door for China, followed by greedy merchants.
After they own your bank, they can paint over your ancestry house.
It's always too late , when you finally see it.
— Tint Smith, houston

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers

51.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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How stupid of those Chinese to want to modernize a part of the country that has no sewage system. Now the rich American tourists cannot visit and think how fabulous this is. Time marches on and the worst impediments to needed change are the historical preservationists who wish to preserve the past like a fly caught in amber, for whom the status quo is sacrosanct. Tear it down and rebuild. Buildings are nothing more than utilitarian structures. Take pictures if you like but it is time to move on.

— MichaelF, Yonkers, NY

Recommend Recommended by 56 Readers 52.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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The destruction of this old city is just another form of genocide against an ethnic minority. Genocide like this breds hatred. The Chinese are going down the well trodden path towards self-destruction......
— Susan, New York

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 53.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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I had a chance to go to Kashgar last year, and I passed it up. I highly regret that decision now. I understand that almost every modern city needs to go through "urban renewal", but I would guess that the new buildings they put up will be more prone to earthquakes and have a much higher percentage of Hans than before.
— Jeff007s, Chicago/Santa Fe

Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers 54.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Weren't all the buildings that fell down in the earthquake new shotty goverment buildings like schools and public housing? These ancient buildings have stood for 1000s of years and have probably survived countless earthquakes. Another doubtful excuse by the Chinese for their dubious actions.
— paulk101, cminor

Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers 55.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Amazing! Why do the authorities not tear down and re-build Han areas?

Will there be any mosques included in the new modern city?
— Willy, Canada

Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers 56.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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All well and good to question the government's motives and abilities (there and here). But clearly this city and its people deserve better.
— RP, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 57.May 28, 2009 10:28 am
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Yes, this is ethnic cleansing. Anyone who appreciates the relationship between ethnic identity, power of place and sacred space would condemn this plan to erase a major reproduction mechanism of Uighur ethnic minority -- their historic built environment at Kashgar. Demolishing Kashgar's traditional city architecture and layout removes its power as a teaching and memory device to reproduce Uighur ethnic identity and its spirit of group integrity (and resistance to assimilation by hostile Others -- in this case Han Chinese). Read The Word in Stone (UC Press, 1974),Langdon Winner's "Do Artifacts have Politics?" and The Architecture of Ideology (UC Press, 1987) to understand the profound political implications of systematic architectural demolitions by hegemonic tyrants. Destroying a ethnic people and their group identity by systematically destroying their historic built environments and sacred places is indeed ethnic cleansing and genocide. Jim
— Jim, Toledo

Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers 58.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Have you lived in a house like people in Kashgar? Do you know how inconvenient it is? It's easy to say preserving cultural heritage while you are enjoying the mordern facility. It seems to me many houses have been razed(if you like the word) even in New York. It's not like this when business man from England first came there. And I bet there were many traditional thing to be treasured in Manahattan or New Amsterdam.

What if you live in those houses and preserve the gem. Be careful about the earthquake!


— Sharon, NY

Recommend Recommended by 60 Readers 59.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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This has nothing to do with earthquakes (why aren't they tearing down half the villages in Sichuan?) and everything to do with control. The Hans have moved into many other parts of in Xinjiang, but still haven't infiltrated Kashgar's old town, which remains primarily Uyghur. Also, in the event of a Uyghur uprising, something the authorities in Beijing are very worried about, Kashgar's old town is the one place the Uyghurs would have an advantage when fighting the PLA. I guess the Chinese view that it's better to "peacefully" destroy the old town now rather than bomb it later.
— Matthew, Bloomington, IN

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 60.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Historic site????
Have you lived in a place with no bathroom and no sewer?
This is not a historic site. People live there, not ghost.


— David, NY

Recommend Recommended by 72 Readers 61.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Why suddenly there is an urgency to "protect" the people in Kashgar from an earthquake when the same government repeated denies any connection between poor construction and the high death toll from the earthquake in Sichuan?

Just yet another excuse to erode the Uighur culture.
— Marie, Hong Kong

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 62.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Another brilliant move by the Chinese government.
— Melissa, Philadelphia

Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 63.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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They do not build their new buildings (schools, etc.) to withstand earthquakes.
No, the key to this article is in this sentence: "Chinese security officials consider it a breeding ground for a small but resilient movement of Uighur separatists who Beijing claims have ties to international jihadis. So redevelopment of this ancient center of Islamic culture comes with a tinge of forced conformity." This is another form of ethnic cleansing. They never have nor ever will want the history and culture. They want to obliterate it all.
— dkatie, portland, oregon

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 64.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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China is behaving, from Tibet to global warming to this example of ghettoization, like the tragedies and lessons learned from the colonialism and ethnic hegemonies of the 19th and 20th centuries never happened. We can continue behaving like a 19th century industrial, ethnic and colonial power because we need to catch up to the West. Whatever happened to 'never again', to borrow a phrase from one singular example of 20th century imperialism/ethnic hegemony?
— AD, Chapel Hill

Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 65.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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If so many people really love the ancient houses as they claim here, why don't you live in the places built by mud and straw, without waste collection? See how long can you last.

The level of hypocrisy is astonishing here. To just satisfy your curiosity, somebody is willing to let others live like an animal.
— Johnson, Iowa

Recommend Recommended by 74 Readers 66.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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"To Protect an Ancient City, China Moves to Raze It"

Just like the Three Gorges Dam was built to prevent flooding? Whole lot of good that did.
— V, NYC

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 67.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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As an artist I am stunned and saddened that anyone could destroy a place of such beauty, never mind historical and cultural significance.

Does anyone know what we as US citizens can do to help Kashgar? Contact our congressional representatives?

What can be done?
— Kate, D.C.

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 68.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Having had the opportunity to be in Kashgar in 2001 and again in 2003, I can report that the Han urban renewal project was then well under way. The Chinese neither like nor trust their Uighur "brothers." Supposedly an autonomous province, Uighurs are in fact bereft of political power. If a talented Uighur wishes to get a decent job, he needs to speak Mandarin. In the main bookstore in Urumqi, it is hard to find books printed in Uighur.

Kashgar is located at the end of the Afghanistan "goose neck," and thus makes the Chinese extremely nervous about the incursion of Islamic fundamentalists. There have been several outbreaks of violence in recent years. Thus, while on can understand the Chinese desire to "contain" the Uighurs, the end of Uighur culture in that historic outpost of the old silk road will constitute a tragic loss. To wander not just the many corridors of the world famous Sunday bazaar, but also the intensely beautiful tree-lined lanes of the city's outskirts has been one of rare jewels that travel in China afforded.
— Vincent Amato, New York City

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 69.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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I am surprised at how the author hardly touched on the 'earthquake' aspect of the plan. It is perfectly alright to condemn the razing and rebuilding if geologists(were any consulted) agree that no fault lies near the city. But if an earthquake may be imminent, then China is backed up against a wall between neglecting to protect the Uigher community and destroying their cultural heritage.

In a post 2008 earthquake China, would you risk the devastation and human toll of the 2003 Boxing Day Earthquake in Bam in the name of cultural preservation? Or would you deem it an acceptable risk.
— Justine, New York

Recommend Recommended by 20 Readers 70.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Pretty dramatic to call it cultural genocide. Rebuilding is happening all over China regardless if they're in ethnic minority areas or not. Beijing's old hutong are being rebuilt with indoor plumbing, heating and modern amenities. The question is if the city can rebuild it back to it's original state.
— Frederick S., Toronto

Recommend Recommended by 22 Readers 71.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
Link
Nothing that China does to it's minorities surprises!

The Uighur people have endured much during the past six decades of Chinese rule. They are being outnumbered by the hordes of Han Chinese immigrants & settlers. Although the Chinese deny it, their Religious & Cultural Rights are often ignored & dismissed. It is illegal to teach your children about Religion (Islam) untill they are 18 years old (too late by then).
Even the time zone is set by Beijing (two or three time zones away), meaning children have to go to school at 11am.
I suspect that Kashgar is being targeted for demolition, to make it easier for the Security Services to drive their armored vehicles & Tanks through the old City of Kashgar!!
Nothing that China does to it's minorities (not even the Demolition & Destruction) Surprises me anymore.

Peace, Love & Respect.

— BINSAFI, Southern California

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 72.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Believe me if Uyghurs had been Budhists then we would be having a march in Washington to express the outrage. But huh, they have terrorist amongst them, let them be razed.
— TM, CA

Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers 73.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
Link
It's saddening but not surprising. The Chinese have long been intent on enforcing their preferred cultural norm on the outlying parts of their empire. They truly know the meaning of the words 'divide and conquer'. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - the 'many' in this case being the rest of the Chinese people...
— Kajikit, FL

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 74.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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It's truly ironic that many American commentators have decried the Uighur resettlement while conveniently overlooking their own real and murderous ethnic cleansing of Native Americans and their resettlement on reservations.
— Diogenes, San Francisco

Recommend Recommended by 25 Readers 75.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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I grew up in Taiwan where a century old arch/gate was not only painted over but marked with the logo of the political party which had been famous for its pro-China policy. The way China did it to the Taiwanese started with some politician turned "consultant" to open the door for China, followed by greedy merchants.
After they own your bank, they can paint over your ancestry house.
It's always too late , when you finally see it.
— Tint Smith, houston

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers

76.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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To American tourists who came from modern, air-conditioned homes, this is historic and exotically beautiful. To those who actually live there, this is a dark, dusty, uninsulated, plumbing-less, depressing ghetto. I know. I lived in one before. It is just so arrogant and cruel to expect other people continue to subsist in such inadequate environments simply for our own travelling enjoyment. We should ask how to retain the characteristics of the old town while rebulidng, not whether it should be rebuilt. With the few exception of some elderly people, you won't find too many who aren't excited about moving to the new homes.
— Ham, LA

Recommend Recommended by 91 Readers 77.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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World should wake up, condemn the way it did when Bamiyan Buddhas were blasted by Talibans.

What else to expect from an authoritarian regime that destroyed much of their own during cultural revolution.
Imported Western ideologies like Communism done great damages to China, parts of SE Asia, Africa, pockets of India.
— Dipak Ghosh, NYC

Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 78.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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"Where there were small courtyard enclosed houses without plumbing there are now giant housing complexes with modern facilities."

For those who view this as a lost of culture, I would ask themself to try to stay at a place without plumbing for a week. It's not a culture issue. It's rediculous that when your own city/country makes a law that says that no house without plumbing can be inhaibted and you are perfectly OK with it. Yet you expect those poor people to say in houses without plumbing forever just so that their culture can be perserved so that you can have something to observe.
Culture can be perserved in a lot of ways. Just remember those people are people. Just like you, they wanted and deserved a better material life. Obviously there is a tough balance here. But keeping them in the zoo is the most cruel way you can imagine.
— jc, FL

Recommend Recommended by 28 Readers 79.All Editors' Selections » EDITORS' SELECTIONS (what's this?) May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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Excellent reportage. I have been in many old Chinese homes within the Hutongs of various cities in China. They are unbelievably beautiful and quaint from the outside. Within lies something less quaint. Primitive sewage [if any], dangerous wiring, ancient slippery steps and so on. Not a place we would want our families to live in. On the other hand these same Hutongs are a living, breathing neighborhood of people who live within a highly evolved and never changing community. Ideally it would be perfect to reinforce or carefully rebuild in order to maintain the exterior of these areas. However, alas, we have the Chinese government who are inclined to insensitive big brush strokes. It is not all bad. I have seen some examples where they have done it right. Unfortunately they are not located in areas frequented by foreign tourists. There are some people within China's world of urban planning who do have some success in preserving that which is the heart and soul of China's architecture. Hopefully, the young urban planners will come into positions of power soon enough to protect what is left, of what the old urban planners have not yet destroyed.
— dorr eddy, santa rosa, CA

Recommend Recommended by 36 Readers 80.May 28, 2009 11:14 am
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I was fortunate to spend a week in Kashgar in 2002 and it was truely one of the most beautiful cities I had ever experienced. But even then it was evident that the Chinese government had other plans. Saw houses riped in half to make way for a 6 lane road (not very many cars there) and wide sidewalks with generic stones that were similar to what was happening in Beijing.
Also saw the little Uighur tombs that rose up like little ant hills, being destroyed to make room for appartment buildings.
I wish there was something that could be done to put pressure on government to let them know how disgusting this action is.
— iggydoo, ottawa

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 81.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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To #4, Ayesha
Maybe we can gather our memories, photos, information we culled from our travels, or for our theses or whatever and put it into a repository. So that people in the near future know that these people did, in fact, exist, that they did have a distinct language and culture that was worth preserving.
There's obvious interest in this board alone, perhaps we can put our heads together and do something.
Elle
we_are_the_galaxians@yahoo.com
— Elle K., Somewhere Else

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 82.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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China's actions only fuels even more hatred from the Uighur population who are powerless to stop what is part of a major campaign to turn Kashgar into a Han dominated city. The Uighurs will become a minority in their own homeland.
— Michael C, Pittsburgh, PA

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 83.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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Since when do "modern" Chinese building practices prevent catastrophic collapses during earthquakes? Tens of thousands of dead schoolchildren in Sichuan province would testify against the soundness of Chinese building practices. If anything their corrupt system of contracting with dubious builders will only further endanger the lives of those Uighurs living in Kashgar. Maybe that's what they want. If Urumqi is the example they will follow, a dispiriting mash of tasteless urban planning, then you can turn the lights out on Kashgar as a tourist destination. Wish i went when i had the chance.
— Barent G., New York City

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 84.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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And the new apartments? ...............

Concrete slabs with their reinforcing bar welded together at the corners. I've seen and lived in this pack of cards kind of construction. When it collapses killing thousands a few Uighur elders will be executed for having sold inferior cement for the project.
Currently the Uighurs will live 2,3 and even 4 generations to a house in the new "sanitised" mid-rise hutches there will only be TWO bedrooms at most; one for Mother and father and one (5 by 6ft)for the ONE child.When it collapses killing thousands a few MORE Uighur elders will be executed for having too many occupants in the buildings.
The Chinese government is committed to destroying all cultures that don't comply with the Stalinist-Han economic model.

For sure ALL the streets will be wide enough for a TANK.
— Esteban, Monterrey, Mexico

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 85.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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I am horrified.

The Old City is beautiful (and the photography is some of the best I've seen in years). That it has stood--in an area prone to earthquakes--for over 500 years certainly testifies to its structural integrity.

That some residents might prefer modern amenities is understandable. Surely those who wished to relocate to more modern housing could have done so already. And every city, town and village ought to have a plan for natural disasters, and do their best to mitigate and retrofit older structures to withstand natural hazards.

But this lovely city has endured for centuries in grace and beauty. This is an enormous loss to the world that, once done, cannot be undone.
— Geekette, New York City

Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers 86.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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This makes me very angry..and is very frustrating because of course we are powerless even to protest. I travelled from Kyrgyzstan to Kashgar and Urumqi and then across China to Lhasa and Everest in the fall of 2007 and it was only when i spent some time in Lhasa I realised what the Party were doing. They deliberately and forcibly dilute and will ultimately eliminate potentially 'dangerous' ethnic cultures by importing thousands of people, Han, from the East and 'fund' them to build shoddy apartment building, even shoddier stores and pull down and relocate ethnic peoples in inner cities on the grounds of 'safety' or giving them better housing. And accompanying this, all the jobs in the local administrations, including police, are given to the Han immigrants....and in most places this seemed to extend to include all white-collar jobs in banks and travel agencies, post offices, etc. Oh, and of course, none of the staff in these places speak any of the local dialects. It truly is appalling...and so much, including people's rights, will be destroyed in this fear-governed process. This is the real China..still.


— Richard Kelman, Bar Harbor, Maine

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 87.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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One Lesson: If there's someplace you want to visit, go do it now. Don't put it off for a tomorrow that may never arrive.

In the mid-90's I took the Karakoram Hwy to see Kashgar, since I wanted to get there before the railway arrived. Even then it was clear what would eventually happen. Sure glad I didn't wait.
— Ben, SF, CA

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 88.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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Why don't you folks live there for a month before you comment? I bet you can't last more than 3 days! These are not Tuscan villas or Amsterdam rowhouses! It is hypocritical to criticize others while you don’t preserve your own. When you visit the House of Seven Gables, did you notice how low the ceiling is? Why aren’t there others like that remaining?
— Ham, LA

Recommend Recommended by 30 Readers 89.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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This is so obviously ethnic-cleansing via destruction of culture and spirit, it makes me sick to read this.
— ellen, pa.

Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 90.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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It's a shame. I wanted to see it .. but am not sure it will be there when I go.

— Satish Sharma, NJ, USA

Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 91.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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It's just poor reporting to not even mention the real reason for the razing, the same reason that China razed traditional neighborhoods and houses in Lhasa, Tibet. The old-style narrow alleys are harder to police, ideal for guerrillas and resistance fighters. Beijing-style boulevards, on the other hand, can accommodate tanks.

China truly is about as evil as a country can get.

www.boldizar.com
— Boldizar, New York

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 92.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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Touche, Andy Hain, #34.

China tore down most of old Beijing, by all reports. Lhasa is "redeveloped." Before I even went downstairs this morning to get the Times with this news about Kashgar I was reflecting on how we have more awareness about what's going on in Tibet, because of the active Tibetan diaspora, than we do about Xinjiang and the Uighurs. Of course, anti-Muslim prejudice is alive and well here as well as in China.

There are several Uighurs, now thought to be entirely innocent, languishing in Guantanamo Bay. For some reason we won't accept them into the U.S. but they can't go safely back to China. So there they sit in a world no man's land.

For more about Xinjiang read "Wild West China"
Christian Tyler, Rutgers Univ. Press, 2004. Also Peter Hessler's, "Oracle Bones." One of Hessler's friends and informants, and the only one for whom he says it was necessary to use a pseudonym, is a Uighur who lived in Beijing and subsequently moved to the U. S.
— CJGC, Cambridge, MA

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 93.May 28, 2009 11:47 am
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Oh how governments like to destroy and deceive through pretense of good intentions. Like America wants to destroy Gitmo, the prison facilities (destroy a bad political building symbolically), and move the occupants elsewhere and thereby prolonging the justice issue of holding humans indefinitely without trials and no concern about the former torture used against them by Americans. China seems in the same deception mode. Must be a trend.
— David Beasley, Greenwood SC

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 94.May 28, 2009 11:59 am
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This story summed up: Urban renewal set to destroy ancient neighborhood lacking in modern services but packed with Old World charm. Neighborhood's mansion-owners and business class unhappy. Wealthy tourists seeking vibrant markets and colorful locals outraged at the loss of a site they could have visited before their friends did. Widespread suspicion of government targeting of minority ethnic group. Voil*, c'est tout.
— Andrew, Amherst, Mass.

Recommend Recommended by 10 Readers 95.May 28, 2009 11:59 am
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A tremendous loss!!!
— SimpleObserver, Seattle

Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 96.May 28, 2009 11:59 am
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Many of the buildings in Kashgar's Old City have survived for hundreds of years, despite being in an earthquake-prone area. However, many of China's new buildings, such as the schools in Chengdu, have crumbled in earthquakes. I don't buy the earthquake excuse. This is tragic.
— Kate D., Washington, DC

Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 97.May 28, 2009 11:59 am
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This is the classic struggle of any living city with a rich cultural heritage. It doesn't have to be completely one extreme or another - raze or preserve. If the government were truly concerned about safety and improving the lives of residents while retaining that heritage, there's a long list of cities around the world - successes and miserable failures - that they could learn lessons from including those mentioned above and others: Paris, Prague, Istanbul, Singapore. Kashgar is not an static museum piece that can be frozen in time, but I wish they'd studied options for upgrading utilities and other infrastructure while preserving parts of the old city (hard to tell from the article how much of this is being planned). Yes, more expensive than razing and rebuilding, but it's an investment not only for foreign tourists but future generations of Chinese who may lament this loss just as many today lament the losses of the Cultural Revolution.
— hp, alexandria va

Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers 98.May 28, 2009 11:59 am
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Thanks for the NYT for this rather balanced report. I would like to comment on some readers comments. First, they use their ideology to make moral judgment without understanding the local circumstance. They made unsubstantiated, if not, false accusations and impugned the Chinese government’s motive. One even uses the word “final solution.” If Beijing were intended to suppress some Uhigurs resentment, how would building new houses do the trick? Any objective readers would recognize such logical and emotional mistakes.

Second, if what is reported is true, the news is unwelcome. It is always sad to see old and unique things vanquish. Probably Beijing made a rash and hash decision. Third, America has a short history. It is likely that a few buildings have been here for two centuries. But 99% of buildings cannot last that long. The traditions tend to have a very recent history.

Finally, a modicum of empathy is in order. If strong earthquakes already hit the area in the recent past, something should be done. Two of my personal experiences help me understand what is happening there. When I returned to my high school in China, I expected to see the simple and familiar bungalows. Instead I saw rather modern mid-rise buildings. Without any emotional attachment to them, I was disappointed and left almost immediately. But then I asked myself: would students prefer the old buildings? Or would I have preferred my old school, if I have had the choice? The answer is a resounding no. Another experience is current. I am looking for a house now. I liked those older houses, which tend to be cheaper, more spacious, and have more beautiful surroundings. But how long would these building last? Would I have enough time and money and mood to fix the problems? I opt for the new building, which will last longer and have more modern amenity. So my brain triumphs over my heart.

— sh, ny

Recommend Recommended by 21 Readers 99.May 28, 2009 11:59 am
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This is ethnic cleansing, without the outright murder (so far). And again the US will not utter a peep about it because China has us by the economic short hairs. What is especially distressing is the number of comments above that defend this as "progress."
— ACW, New Jersey

Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 100.May 28, 2009 11:59 am
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The next stage of this cultural genocide will be the relocation of ethnic Han Chinese, just as in Tibet.
— skynet91, Raleigh, NC