Modernization, though deemed crucial for a nation’s development, has drowned the many cultures and history of places in Xinjiang, China, leaving the Uighur people at risk of losing their cultural identity.
Kashgar, a beautiful oasis city in Xinjang with an approximate population of 350,000, has a large Muslim community, with 90 per cent of the population being Uighurs. It has a history dating back to more than 2,000 years, where it had served as a trading post and strategically important city on the Silk Road between China, the Middle East, and Europe.
Travelers who wander the alleys of the Old City of Kashgar, which is a symbol of the Uighur' cultural identity would experience the local tradition that has been preserved over centuries. However, in recent years, Kashgar was changing. It has been undergoing a facelift under a modernization programme which had garnered global attention, met with some concerns that such development activities would further erode the Uighur people's culture and history.
It was about six years ago, when the Chinese government set out on a mission to “modernize” the Old City district of Kashgar, home to the Turkic-speaking Uighur. The renovation would see the authorities demolishing around 50,000 homes and displacing 220,000 Uighur residents. The Uighur people had never wholeheartedly accepted the Chinese government after they were conquered in 1949, and they view the “modernization” as a direct attack on their presence in the city.