The Beauty and the Sorrow That I Witnessed in Xinjiang: Interview

Sandra Loyd

Abu is a young guy from Taiwan. In 2019, he rode on his bike to Xinjiang, circumnavigated the province for practically 2 months, and shared on social media what he saw and heard. In a video taken in Kashgar’s Old Town in southern Xinjiang, he shared information of his discussions with residents about what actually occurs in Xinjiang’s re-education camps, and this triggered even more conversationsonline Below is RFA press reporter Jane Tang’s interview with Abu:

RFA: The videos you took in Xinjiang have actually created a great deal of actiononline Now that you are back in Taiwan, can you inform us triggered you to check out Xinjiang?

Abu: I had actually simply left my task in China, and had actually thought of riding my bike from the seaside province of Guangdong all the method to Europe. I especially wished to check out Xinjiang. In China, public viewpoint about China’s Xinjiang policy is polarized. I was hoping that I might discover more about the problem with my own eyes and ears, instead of from rumor or the news.

According to my original schedule, after leaving Xinjiang, I would have continued my journey till I reached Europe. A number of things occurred, so I called the journey off early and returned to Taiwan.

RFA: Numerous reporters have actually been put under security while in Xinjiang. What was your experience there?

Abu: In Xinjiang, there are security check points in every village. My name was taken, and I was browsed, so it was easy [for police] to track me down. I was browsed about 10times I got in Xinjiang in late June of 2019, and left in the middle of August, so remained there for about one and a half months.

Each authorities search took more than hour. I needed to put each of my individual possessions on the ground for them to inspect. I felt like a street supplier. The authorities would inspect the photos I took, too.

I had some weird encounters with the authorities. Often, in the middle of the night, the authorities would come and reveal that I might not remain in the hotel and required that I have a look at of the hotel right away. At other times, when I encamped, the authorities would contact us to find me and force me to leave.

RFA: The place where you shot your video “The Beauty and Sorrow of Xinjiang” is full of stories, and you strolled past lots of stacks of debris and various deserted homes. What were these?

Abu: Those are the Gaotai Homes, conventional Uyghur domestic houses in Kashgar in south Xinjiang. I did some research study prior to the journey, and I wished to have a look at the abundant culture there. It was not till I had actually practically reached Xinjiang that I heard that the citizens of the Homes had actually been moved and the Homes destroyed. The citizens were made to transfer after the Chinese federal government presented the Hardship Relief Policy.

The Chinese federal government built a brand-new “Ancient Town” close by, however that is absolutely nothing compared to the Old Town. All the cultural and the ethnic historic beliefs have actually reduced with the demolition. Yes, everybody is entitled to a modern-day civilization, however I do not concur with this type of thorough demolition and moving.

RFA: So you found out that the Gaotai Dwellings were deserted, however how did you handle to get in to the Old Town?

Abu: I still wished to see the Old Town with my own eyes, so I searched the location for a couple of days, wishing to discover a manhole of some sort to slip in, and I did. I discovered a secret entrance, and when I got in I made a couple of turns, climbed up through a slab, and landed in the streets in the old town. I shared that details on Taiwan’s Backpackers Online forum.

I selected to shoot the video and discuss the re-education camps in that place due to the fact that of my experience in Urumqi, where I was stalked. I wished to have the video taken in a location where there were no security electronic cameras.

RFA: You talked with lots of residents about the changes that have actually taken place in Xinjiang over the past couple of years. What stories did they share with you?

Abu: I met a rancher whose animals was removed by the Chinese federal government in the name of Hardship Relief. The rancher and his family were then required to transfer from their grazing location to government-arranged real estate. The Chinese federal government likewise set up tasks for them, so they do make a wage. As a result, their earnings level met the hardship relief requirement, and they ended up being simply another number in the information. the Chinese federal government positioned their children in a central education setting, declaring this was meant to supply child care for the working moms and dads.

Furthermore, the ethnic minorities in the location– not simply the Uyghurs, however everybody whose religious beliefs is Islam– are never ever permitted to leave Xinjiang. the Chinese federal government will not release it if anybody uses for a passport. There are checkpoints all over at the stops leaving Xinjiang. And if an ID determines the holder as an ethnic minority individual, that individual is not permitted to leave their town, to state absolutely nothing of leaving the nation. If these people in the area are in a lockdown, it is practically as.

RFA: In the videos of Xijiang shot by China’s official media outlets, Xinjiang citizens applaud China and thank the CCP. the outside world has actually likewise seen lots of reports and categorized files about the re-education camps in Xinjiang. What was the Xinjiang that you saw like?

Abu: I would classify the Xinjiang people in 2 groups. One group includes those who might gain from this policy. In a few of the traveler areas, for instance, the Xinjiang people there would yell “Thank you, Party! Thank you, our Country!” as soon as they saw me. Possibly they actually felt grateful for the Chinese federal government, or possibly they did this to safeguard themselves. Other civilians that I came in touch with gradually exposed some more information. They felt too powerless, unfortunate, or terrified to state much about the re-education camps or the tight controls troubled the ethnic minorities.

One Xinjiang guy informed me that his bro was removed and was never ever once again seen once again after the authorities discovered a copy of Koran in thehouse In lots of circumstances, Xinjiang people are kept an eye on, alerted, removed, or perhaps imprisoned. When they got out, and those detainees turned quiet. They would state “the Party is really good to me,” however you might see that the method he spoke and his facial expressions were entirely inconsistent.

RFA: What was the environment like in Xinjiang?

Abu: I felt extremely oppressed. I might stroll in the main roadways, however if I developed into any alley, there would be a check stop. Foreign travelers like us are not permitted in lots of locations.

To see more around the Old Town, I utilized the taxis a lot. I would ask the cabbie to drive me to some location, and then I might talk with the motorist. On among these flights, my motorist ended up being irritated throughout our discussion. He stated, ‘It is not complimentary here at all. Even a canine would be better here than people.The people wish to leave town, however they are not permitted to.’

If the whole town had actually ended up being a big prison house,

It was as. Everybody is caught within.

RFA: Xijiang was not like this at all in the past. When did all these changes start?

Abu: The residents stated it wanted the July 2009 Urumqi Riots.

RFA: What are the things that the Xinjiang civilians desire the outside world to understand?

Abu: They desire the world to understand what the Chinese federal government is doing to them: the re-education camps, the random checks and security, and the controling of ethnic minority groups to spy on one another.

I might feel the sense of their vulnerability from their body language and from theireyes It was as if you were attempting to hold still versus a flood, however still got gotten rid of. When I was in Xinjiang, the Muslims were commemorating Eid al-Adha, or the Celebration of the Sacrifice. Eid al-Adha is an essential Muslim vacation commemorated around the world. In China, Muslims in Qinghai or Gansu might have the ability to collect and commemorate, however not in Xinjiang. Here, the Muslims were informed to return home when the event was over. They might not gather on the streets, due to the fact that no events were permitted.

On the early morning of the vacation, people went onto the streets to commemorate, however the authorities then revealed through a PA system that everybody ought to returnhome That was it. The biggest Mosque in Kashgar was likewise prohibited from holding any events. I feel that the whole culture is being wiped out.

One day, I saw a poster in a desertedhouse The material was even more revolting. The poster had to do with the Chinese version of Dos and Do n’ts with concerns to the Islamic culture. the Muslims consume Halal food, however the poster stated that moms and dads are prohibited to inform children to consume just Halal food. There are lots of restriction orders like that in Xinjiang. These orders are by force ruining the Muslims’ spiritual culture.

RFA: Why did you end your journey early and go back to Taiwan?

Abu: My experience in the Kashgar Airport actually scared me. The airline company representative wrecked my flight ticket and would not let me board my flight. He asked me to go back to the hotel that I had actually taken a look at from earlier. Fortunately, I had the ability to book another flight right now, utilizing my brand-new “Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents” (MPT) number. My second effort to leave the area succeeded, and I handled to fly to Sichuan.

Nevertheless, as soon as I passed the border control, I was right away required to a little space. There were lots of camera pointing at me. The interrogator asked me what I was doing in China? What did I do on a particular date? All my personal belongings were considered and browsed, all my memory cards taken. I most likely would not have actually had the ability to make it back to Taiwan at all had I not synced all my videos to cloud storage in actual time and burned all my video-containing memory cards prior to I left.

I reached the airport in Sichuan in the morning at 4 a.m. The search and interrogation there lasted for practically 4 hours, and I ultimately captured a 9: 00 flight to Macau. When I landed in Macau, I practically burst into tears. I no longer required the MPT. From here on I might utilize my passport, released by the Republic of China, Taiwan.

RFA: What was the most significant effect this journey had on you?

Abu: I did not anticipate that numerous residents would share their details with me. They trusted me to inform their stories. I am now a company follower in the concept that liberty is a bequest. I have actually seen a lot stunning landscapes in Xinjiang, however the stories of its people are the sorrows that need to be informed.

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