Chinese officials are demolishing Kashgar’s Old City to prevent calamity in case of earthquake in this tremor-prone region of Xinjiang.
To give some perspective on this project, many of the 13,000 families who live in the city belong to the Uighur ethnic minority, a people who–like the Tibetans to the South–have in the past been targets of clampdowns by the Chinese government, fearing their separation from the country. (Kashgar lies on the western border of Xinjiang province, which is technically an Autonomous Region of the PRC.)
Similar to the face-lift done for Beijing’s old neighbourhoods, a new “Old City” for Kashgar will be rebuilt, with modern buildings and plazas, but also reproductions of ancient Islamic architecture (“to preserve the Uighur culture”). Needless to say, the destruction of old family homes is not popular and requires, shall we say… some media persuasion.
On Kashgar television, a nightly 15-minute infomercial hawks the project like ginsu knives, mixing dire statistics on seismic activity with scenes of happy Uighurs dancing in front of their new concrete apartments.