Unrest In Urumqi—A Californian Draws A Dark Lesson For Her Own State
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Also by Linda Thom: Tibet's Turmoil—The Immigration Dimension

Security is reportedly tight in Urumqi, capital of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region—which is the euphemism for Xinjiang Province, as it is not autonomous at all. Local Uighurs have just been convicted of a wave of "syringe attack" stabbings on Han Chinese in the wake of serious rioting in July. [60 years after revolution, ethnic tension still plagues China, By Tom Lassiter, Miami Herald, September 22, 2009.]

Two years ago in June, my husband and I took a train journey around China. We visited both Tibet and Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. As Californians, we instantly recognized that the unrest and violence in both have lessons for Americans. The story is all too familiar to residents of "Occupied America"—areas suffering from immigration-driven over population and cultural change.

Xinjiang is the northwest-most province in China.  In the heart of the province lies the Tarim Basin, which is a huge desert. Along both the northern and southern borders of the desert run mountains. For thousands of years people have traveled this area along the Silk Road.

Sometime around 2000 to 1800 B.C. a group of people lived, died and were buried in an area called Loulan, on the east of the basin and southeast of Urumqi. Other people lived on the southern rim of the basin and were buried in Cherchen. The dry desert conditions preserved these bodies for all posterity.

The mummies are Europeans, not Han Chinese.

Although there are hundreds of mummies, perhaps the two most famous are "Cherchen Man" and the "Loulan Beauty", which my husband and I saw in the provincial museum in Urumqi in 2007. Cherchen man dates from 1000 BC. He has red hair, is about 5' 10" tall and has a decidedly European face. Loulan Beauty, among the oldest mummies, has light brown hair and again looks European, not Chinese.

Beside the Loulan Beauty's case, an artist drew a picture of how beautiful she may have been because the Uighurs have adopted her as a symbol of their people. She looks like them, not Chinese.

DNA samples do not completely support this view—the Uighurs are a Turkic people—but whatever else they are, the mummies are not Han Chinese. [The Dead Tell A Tale China Doesn't Care To Listen To, by Edward Wong, New York Times, November 18, 2008].

Nevertheless, the Uighurs believe they have a right to be independent because they arrived in the area prior to the Han Chinese. The Loulan Beauty has become their symbol

Thus, I was not surprised to hear in May—prior to the riots—that only one mummy is now displayed in Urumqi, an infant. To confirm this, I inquired from an expert about whether the mummies had, in fact, been removed. The expert replied:

"The mummies come and go—for various reasons that I'd rather not go into here. I would say that, with the current, and very serious, unrest in Urumchi that is going on right now, the mummies might not be available for viewing for awhile. I hope that nothing worse happens to them."

For hundreds of years, Uighurs comprised the majority population in Xinjiang. In 1949, Hans began to move west and the Han population now makes up 40 percent of the residents. In the capital, Urumqi, some reports say two-thirds to three-quarters of the population is Han Chinese.

In his book, Shadow of the Silk Road, author Colin Thubron recounts a conversation with a Uighur in a restaurant in Khotan which is on the southwest rim of the Tarim Basin.

"The man says: 'This is a military occupation. It's like Tibet. It's like Kosovo. It's like. . .' He runs out of parallels, then seizes my fork and clasps it to his chest. "Could I take this and say it's mine? No! But that's what they're doing.""

The Uighur continues by describing "filthy high-rises" and "cities of smog." That is precisely what overpopulation and industry have created. I saw it with my own eyes. See it here.

The region reportedly possesses over 30% of the Chinese oil and coal deposits and I have read that the figure is more like 40%. China also uses the area for nuclear testing and has a large military contingent in Xinjiang.

And is this the same as Tibet? Yes, it is. In China's Great Train, Abrahm Lustgarten states, "Tibet is now said to hold as much as 40 million tons of copper—one-third of China's total—40 million tons of lead and zinc and more than a billion tons of high-grade iron." Tibet is also headwaters for some of the greatest water systems in the world. Just look at a map. He who controls the water is king of the mountain.

In addition, the Chinese government needs to find a place for its excess population. Create jobs, housing and educational opportunities or the people get restless.

The Uighurs complain that all the development has helped make jobs for Hans but not for Uighurs. They complain that their children are forced to learn and to use Chinese in school. They say that the Chinese are interfering with their ability to practice their Muslim faith.

Today, the city of Urumqi is culturally Chinese. One of the few places that is still ethnic Uighur is the market—the place where the July rioting started. According to Chinese reports, the Uighurs attacked Han Chinese merchants.

China may have suppressed the riots and blacked out news coverage. But the tension will not go away.

And how is this like America?

In the late 1960s, when my husband and I moved to California, the population was 20 million. It is now 37 million. Whites will shortly be the minority—if they are not already. A California friend said that she felt like a red-headed step child and laughed. Many are not laughing. They are packing up and leaving the state.

Can we talk about this, please?

Can we stand up and say that we have enough people already?

Can we ask why Mexico has the right to export her excess people to the U.S.?

Can we say to our government that we think American jobs should go to our own unemployed rather than immigrants?

Can we say that we prefer to celebrate July 4th rather than Cinco de Mayo?

Or will Congress soon declare it a "hate crime" to complain about the immigration invasion?


Linda Thom [email her] is a retiree and refugee from California. She formerly worked as an officer for a major bank and as a budget analyst for the County Administrator of Santa Barbara

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