Witness to discrimination: Confessions of a Han Chinese from Xinjiang

16 June 2020, 13:33 UTC
By Cha Naiyu, former Xinjiang resident

Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities face systemic repression and discrimination in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, but what’s it like to live there as a Han Chinese person?

The two Uyghur boys were much stronger than me. They taught me to flip on parallel bars every day after school. We shared the same bag of snacks, drank from the same bottle of water. When I was growing up in Xinjiang, it didn’t matter that I was Han and they were not. But that Xinjiang has all but disappeared.

In other parts of China, Xinjiang is synonymous with trouble and stigma and with being remote and backward. But many people in Xinjiang tell me it’s the safest place in the country – they are proud of it.

I moved away several years ago. Every time I go back home, I feel the atmosphere has become heavier as the government’s control has increased. Enter any building – restaurant, shopping mall, cinema, hospital, supermarket – and it’s the same: security check, bag check, swipe ID card. Compared to the place I remember from my childhood, it feels like being in a science fiction film.

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