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China demolishing ancient Silk Road city to replace it with tourist replica
China demolishing ancient Silk Road city to replace it with tourist replica
http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/world/China---demolishing-ancient.5314266.jp

Published Date: 29 May 2009
By Michael Wines in Kashgar
SOME 1,000 years ago, the northern and southern branches of the Silk Road converged at the oasis town of Kashgar near the edge of the Taklamakan Desert.

Traders from Delhi and Samarkand unloaded their pack horses here and sold saffron and lutes along the cramped streets. Chinese traders, their camels laden with silk and porcelain, did the same.

The traders are now joined by tourists exploring the alleys and mud-and-straw buildings once window-shopped, then sacked, by Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. Now, Kashgar is about to be sacked again.

Some 900 families have been moved from Kashgar's Old City, "the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in central Asia," as the architect and historian George Michell writes in the 2008 book Kashgar: Oasis City on China's Old Silk Road.

Over the next few years, city officials say, they will demolish at least 85 per cent of the warren of picturesque, if run-down homes and shops. Many of its 13,000 families, Muslims from a Turkic ethnic group called the Uighurs, will be moved.

In its place will rise a new Old City, a mix of apartments, plazas, alleys widened into avenues and reproductions of ancient Islamic architecture "to preserve the Uighur culture", said Kashgar deputy mayor Xu Jianrong.

Demolition is deemed an urgent necessity because an earthquake could strike soon, collapsing centuries-old buildings and killing thousands. "What government would not protect its citizens?" asked Mr Xu.

Critics fret about a different disaster. "From a cultural and historical perspective, this plan of theirs is stupid," said Wu Lili, the managing director of the Beijing Cultural Protection Centre, a group devoted to historic preservation. "From the perspective of the locals, it's cruel."

Reconstruction during China's long boom has razed many old city centres, including most of the ancient alleyways and courtyard homes of the capital, Beijing.

Kashgar, though, is not a typical Chinese city. Security officials consider it a breeding ground for a small but resilient movement of Uighur separatists, whom Beijing claims have ties to international jihadis.

So, redevelopment of the ancient centre of Islamic culture comes with a tinge of forced conformity. Mr Xu calls Kashgar "a prime example of rich cultural history and at the same time a major tourism city". Yet the demolition plan would reduce to rubble Kashgar's principal attraction for the million-plus people who visit each year.

China supports an international plan to designate major Silk Road landmarks as United Nations' World Heritage sites – a powerful draw for tourists, and a major incentive for governments to preserve historic areas. But Kashgar is missing from the list of proposed sites.

One foreign official who refused to be identified for fear of damaging relations with Beijing said the Old City project had unusually strong backing high in the government.

The city says the Uighur residents have been consulted at every step of planning. Residents mostly say they are summoned to meetings at which eviction timetables and compensation sums are announced. "My family built this house 500 years ago," Hajji, 56, said as his wife served tea inside their two-storey Old City house. "It was made of mud. It's been improved, but there has been no change to the rooms."

His wife said: "If we move to an apartment, every 50 or 70 years, that apartment is torn down again. This is the biggest problem in our lives. How can our children inherit an apartment?"

[PR]
by yaponluq | 2009-07-04 23:13 | 東突厥斯坦/"新疆"ウイグル
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