Being Tracked While Reporting in China, Where ‘There Are No Whys’April 17, 2019
Once a bustling Silk Road entrepôt famed for its markets, the city of Kashgar now resembles a prison. Hospitals, schools and parks are swathed in coils of barbed wire. Restaurants and stores sit behind metal bars.
To get just about anywhere in the city you have to pass through checkpoints. A green channel allows tourists and Han Chinese to forgo the ID checks, but Uighurs must submit. My seven followers, all Uighurs, were often stopped. A quick flash of a badge allowed them to proceed.
A decade ago, much of the mud-brick old city was leveled and rebuilt. Authorities said it was to guard against earthquakes. Roads and alleyways were widened, making patrolling easier. The rebuilding continues today. At one of the only remaining original spurs of the old town, residents had been moved out and earthmovers chipped away at historic houses. This last island of old Kashgar will soon disappear.
On the neighborhood’s edge, I ran into a woman who appeared to be squatting in an abandoned structure. Her bereft expression said about everything there was to say about the tragedy of Xinjiang. Just after I took her picture, two Chinese tourists shouted at her in Mandarin, an attempt to get her to look at their cameras. When she turned her head away and hid it in her hands, they laughed.
Each evening as we returned to our hotel, we would pass a boarding school surrounded by tall fences topped with barbed wire. Socializing in clusters in the twilight, the adolescent students looked very much like prisoners.