Demolizione Kashgar: Trovato documento per il nuovo reinsediamento nella città uigura

Un documento ufficiale riesaminato dall’Associazione americana Uiguri (UAA) mette in mostra l’importanza del lavoro di propaganda degli ufficiali locali nel processo di regolamentare diversamente i residenti dell’antica città di Kashgar, situata nella provincia autonoma dello Xinjiang (Cina) e centro della cultura uigura.

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An official document reviewed by the Uyghur American Association (UAA) lays out the importance of local officials’ propaganda work in the process of resettling residents of Kashgar’s Old City. The online document details a February 27 meeting of more than 1,100 cadres, just as the demolition of the Old City was launched, and indicates that officials were under great pressure from authorities to counter opposition to the project among Old City residents. The document’s language, and the need for such intensive propaganda work, intrinsically recognizes the existence of widespread disagreement with the project among residents of the Old City, despite official declarations that residents were rejoicing in their good fortune.

The official “working paper”, issued by the municipal office overseeing the demolition project and published in a report dated May 31, 2009, states that “those cadres with a mind to create conflict, or who refuse to cooperate in their work, or who don’t fulfill their duties and obligations, will be removed from office on the spot, without exception.” It asserts that propaganda work is a “serious political issue, for which all cadres must scrupulously abide by political regulations”.

“For those who refuse to cooperate, for those who try to obstruct the transformation work of the Old City, as soon as this is discovered, no matter who is implicated, or what their status is, we will firmly deal with them according to administrative regulations,” the document states. “Those creating a negative impression will be investigated and dealt with according to the law.”

Government officials abruptly began carrying out the demolition of Kasghar’s Old City in February 2009, as part of a “residents resettlement project” aimed at moving the 220,000 Uyghur residents (approximately half of the population of Kashgar itself). In 2008, the State Council of the National People’s Congress designated nearly three billion yuan (nearly US$440 million) to the project.

Chinese authorities have consistently portrayed the demolition project as one borne out of official concern for the safety of Old City residents, undertaken to prevent disastrous collapse in the event of an earthquake or other calamity. However, domestic and international observers have questioned whether other motives may be at play, as the government pursues an ongoing, intensive campaign to dilute Uyghurs’ unique culture and identity. The Old City’s myriad streets and warrens have preserved traditional Uyghur patterns of life for centuries, and have proved difficult for the Chinese Communist Party to manage and control.

“Prior to the destruction of the Old City, Chinese officials did everything they could short of demolition to assimilate Uyghurs under state control, including transferring young Uyghur women and girls to eastern China and removing Uyghur as the language of instruction in schools,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “Now officials have launched a campaign to bury the history and culture of the Uyghur people. They are no longer content to control us spiritually; now they must destroy our homes and neighborhoods as well.”

As recently reported by UAA, demolition work appears to be reaching a critical stage, with the destruction of a medieval Islamic college designated by the government as a “protected cultural site”, and the passage of a June 18 deadline marking the last day that residents of the Old City could agree to move out voluntarily.

China’s official press has asserted that Old City residents were consulted regarding the resettlement project, but UAA has found no evidence of any consultative process, and all independent indications point to the lack of a Uyghur voice in the entire process. Online forums in Uyghur and Chinese, indicate an overwhelming opposition to the demolition of the Old City.
While the Chinese government has proposed that China’s Silk Road locations be included in a UNESCO World Heritage List, Kashgar was glaringly omitted from China’s application (with the exception of the tomb of Mahmud Kashgari), though Kashgar was arguably the most important Silk Road crossroads within the territory of present-day China. Silk Road status would provide a powerful draw for tourists to sites within China included on UNESCO’s list. However, the demolition of Kashgar’s Old City removes a major source of tourist revenue for the local government- prior to demolition work, Kashgar received 1.5 million foreign and domestic tourists annually, generating around 620 million yuan (more than US$90 million) in revenue.

A recent New York Times article about the razing of the Old City cited an unnamed foreign official who said the project had “unusually strong backing high in the government.” The official reportedly refused to be identified for fear of damaging relations with Beijing.

The document detailing the February 27 meeting stresses that concerns over the preservation of the Old City due to its cultural and historical significance are “extremely irresponsible”:

“For those who think that the Old City represents Uyghurs’ unique culture, and that this is where Kashgar’s beauty, history and culture lie, this is incorrect thinking that ignores the dangers and disasters, and is extremely irresponsible; they cannot use the excuse of historical and cultural preservation to ignore the people’s lives and property.”

The document accuses critics of placing cultural preservation over the need to ensure the safety of the people, and insists that art and culture can only be passed on through the protection of people’s lives and property.

In light of these statements, official plans to retain part of the Old City with the aim of creating “international heritage scenery” appear somewhat disingenuous. State official Wang Zhengrong, who stated that the demolition project would adhere to international heritage standards, explained that tourism would continue after the demolition, and that tourists would still be able to view “traditional lifestyle and architectural characteristics”.

Moreover, a Beijing professor suggested that houses in the Old City could be reinforced and repaired instead of completely demolished, as the Old City contains “the typical Uighur way of life, production and culture”. The professor, who teaches regional planning at Beijing Normal University’s School of Geography, argued that safety and preservation are not mutually exclusive in the case of the Old City.

Old City residents are reportedly being resettled in apartment blocks in an area about eight or nine kilometers outside of Kashgar, not far from the city’s airport. In addition to being uprooted from their jobs, communities and centers of worship, residents have also reported that they have received inadequate compensation for their Old City homes. Those who wish to stay face a lack of any institutional mechanism with which to express their grievances, and fear that if they voice any complaints, they may be subject to severe punishment from authorities.

An article posted on a Kashgar-based news website on July 9, 2008 discusses the initial launch of propaganda work aimed at Old City residents. The article notes the creation of a propaganda team and a “social stability” team, and states that municipal cadres were directed to begin entering Old City residents’ homes on July 1, 2008 to engage in propaganda work and convince residents of the significance, motivations and benefits of the demolition project. It explains that cadres were to make use of their shared language and culture with local people to convince them of the project’s benefits, and that they must not miss a single street, household or person among the 62,616 households and 220,000 residents.

The February 2009 working paper also indicates that some cadres responsible for carrying out propaganda work are themselves Uyghur residents of the Old City, and that these cadres must set an example for others: “All cadres, teaching and administrative staff, but especially minority cadres… must firmly and unwaveringly stand on the side of the Party and the nation, and stand on the side of protecting the lives, property and safety of the people of the Old City.”

“Cadres in the Old City community should act as the “good friend” of the people, to help, educate and lead the people to actively participate in the transformation,” exhorts the document. “Even if one’s own house is in the Old City, you must take the initiative in resettling or transforming, and if you have relatives living in the Old City, you must persuade and mobilize them to abide by the regulations for moving and transforming, and act as a model for the public.”

The working paper states “No cadres are allowed to act out of their own interest, to gossip, disrupt or incite relatives or the public to ask for exorbitant prices from the Party and government, to entrap the nation, or to obstruct the transformation of the Old City.”

A China Daily article published on May 30, 2009 also warns of the dangers of corruption in urban development projects. The article, while dismissing “Western colleagues’” “fixation” on the Kashgar demolition project, expresses concern that the public has been given little say in this and similar projects.

“Officials seldom bother to inform or consult interested citizens,” it says.

Kashgar city convenes mobilization meeting for comprehensive work of transforming dangerous old housing in the Old City.

Uyghur Human Rights Project
Uyghur American Association
1701 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite 300
Washington, D.C.  20006
Tel: +1 (202) 349 1496
Fax: +1 (202) 349 1491


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