Understanding Uighur-Han conflict in China's Xinjiang Province

Friday, July 24, 2009 | 11:53 a.m. CDT; updated 1:12 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 24, 2009

Stuart Loory, Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies, Missouri School of Journalism: One leg of the fabled Silk Road passed through the modern day Xinjiang Province, home of the ethnic Uighurs, a group of Chinese who speak not Mandarin but their own Turkic language. Many are practicing Muslims and can be understood by citizens of Istanbul more readily than Beijing. Going back to the Seventh Century, the Uighur people have desired independence. Now, the Han Chinese are trying to assimilate the area. As a result, some Uighurs, a small minority in China, began challenging Han domination. Last year, as the Olympic Games were beginning in Beijing, 16 policemen were killed in Xinjiang. New clashes started on July 5 this year. Since then, perhaps 197 have been killed in fighting and hundreds more injured. What are the real facts, and what are the implications for China and the rest of the world? Why is it so difficult to cover this strife in Kashgar and the Xinjiang Province?