Chicoms Razing a Uyghur Treasure on the Silk Road

(Kashgar is in dark lettering just to right of middle at map above from 2020 NY Times photo feature.)

That’s the Grand Bazaar of Kashgar–Xinjiang’s major southwestern city, near Kashmir and on the road to Tashkent in Uzbekistan. From Radio Free Asia:

China razes Kashgar’s iconic Grand Bazaar

The vibrant marketplace’s destruction is seen is part of China’s plan to force Uyghurs to assimilate.

The travel guide Lonely Planet advises visitors to Kashgar, China, to fight the crowds that gather at its Sunday Grand Bazaar and let their senses loose to the smells of spices, the softness of silks and the beauty of carpets carefully woven by locals. The marketplace contains “everything of interest to foreign visitors,” the short blurb states.

Not anymore. Lonely Planet and other guidebooks that promote the bazaar will need to be revised. Chinese authorities are in the process of destroying the famous marketplace.

An RFA analysis of satellite images of the Grand Bazaar provided by PlanetLabs Inc. shows dramatic changes in the market, including the removal of buildings and the roofs of stalls, between photos taken on April 4 and May 4 [emphasis added, see first tweet after this quote].

According to one local official, a new tourist attraction will arise in its place.

Authorities are well known for taking the wrecking ball to historic streetscapes and buildings across China and replacing them with retro facsimiles to draw tourists. But Uyghur activists and foreign scholars say the destruction of the Grand Bazaar is really about the ongoing campaign by Chinese authorities to erase Uyghur traditions and customs in the region in a brutal campaign of forced assimilation [emphasis added].

The Kashgar Grand Bazaar was the largest international trade market in China’s Xinjiang region, with 4,000 shops that sell more than 9,000 products on 250-acres of land. Goods from the region sold there include spices, teas, silk, dried fruit, carpets, Uyghur musical instruments, Central Asia clothing and skullcaps called doppas.

Now the shops are being destroyed and their owners forced to move to a new location away from the city, according to local officials and videos posted by shop owners on social media.

Authorities are cracking down on the criticism too, detaining and interrogating vendors who voiced their displeasure with the government’s decision to tear down the marketplace, local sources said.

Kashgar has a 2,000-year history as a trading center on the famed historical caravan route known as the Silk Road [emphasis added]. The Venetian merchant, explorer and writer Marco Polo visited the city as he traveled through Asia along the trade route in the late 13th century.

Modern times

In modern times, the oasis city’s bazaar served as a wholesale hub for traders and businesspeople from neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and the former Soviet states in Central Asia, said Kasimjan Abdurehim, a Uyghur exile based in the U.S. who ran a shop at the bazaar from 1992 to 1998…

Through interviews with local police and other officials, RFA learned that the market demolition was developed and implemented by the Politics and Law Commission of Xinjiang.

The approximate boundaries of the Kashgar Bazaar are highlighted in this Google Earth image taken July 14, 2021. (CNES/Airbus, Maxar Technologies)
The approximate boundaries of the Kashgar Bazaar are highlighted in this Google Earth image taken July 14, 2021. (CNES/Airbus, Maxar Technologies)

Demolition completed

Officials at the Market Supervision Bureau in Kashgar told RFA in March that the Grand Bazaar was being torn down but declined to answer questions about why and how much of it had already been bulldozed.

Police — not officials at the Market Supervision Bureau — issued a notice of demolition to shop owners two or three months ago, and they stepped up their control of the market afterwards, local sources said.

“The Politics and Law Commission is working on dealing with the shop owners and the demolition,” said a police officer in Kashgar. “They are not fully done with it yet.

There’s been dissatisfaction, for sure,” the officer added. “We have already [demolished] two-thirds of the market. We are still working on the rest right now [emphasis added].”

An official from the Urumqi [capital of Xinjiang] Tourism Bureau told RFA that social media reports about the bazaar’s demolition were false and that foreign visitors were not being taken there because of the COVID-19 pandemic [emphasis added].

“This is not correct,” he said. “You cannot trust information on social media.”

But an employee at the Kashgar Hua’an International Travel Agency told RFA in April that the Grand Bazaar had been destroyed and that the vendors were going to be relocated.

“The Kashgar Grand Bazaar has already been demolished,” he said. “It has been moved to the east side of the city. It has been already a month since it was demolished. The whole market was demolished. Everything there had been moved to the east side of the city.”

A Chinese police officer in Kashgar said the marketplace had been partially torn down when he saw it a month or two earlier.

“Half of the Kashgar Grand Bazaar has already been demolished, and half is still there,” he said.

An official from the Kashgar Chamber of Commerce and Industry also said the Grand Bazaar had been demolished and that business there had stopped [emphasis added].

“We have demolished most of the market,” he said. “There are some shop owners who came from Hotan [Hetian] who are resisting. That’s why we have still not fully demolished all of it.”

The Kashgar market management bureau official also confirmed the same information.

“It has already been relocated,” he said. “It doesn’t exist now. Some are moving to the new location. Some have refused to move.”..

An officer at the Kashgar branch of national security police told RFA that news of the bazaar’s razing sparked outrage among shop owners, although they apparently received at least some compensation from the city government…

The demolition of the Grand Bazaar is part of the Chinese government’s process of dispossessing Uyghurs and destroying their culture, Uyghur activists and academics who have studied Uyghur culture say…

Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

And two tweets:

Earlier posts:

Chicoms say: “Uyghurs? What Uyghurs?”

PRC’s Ethnic Cleansing of Uyghurs and other Muslims, Cont’d

The PRC’s Vanishing Uyghurs

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

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