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Kashgar's Ethnic Uighurs

Photographer: Hwee Young How


Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority group in China, make up about 40 per cent of the 21.8 million people in Xinjiang, a vast, ethnically divided region that borders Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. Other ethnic minorities living in here include the Han Chinese, Kyrgyz, Mongolian and Tajiks people.


In the restive region of Kashgar, at the western end of Xinjiang where the North and South Silk road meets, Uighurs comprise of more than 90 per cent of the 3.9 million population. Most practice a moderate form of Islam and religion is a major part of most ordinary Uighurs' lives.


Tensions have been high between the Uighurs and the dominant Han Chinese as Uighurs complain of cultural and religious repression and claim that Han Chinese migrants enjoy the main benefits of development in the oil-rich but economically backward region.


State media have reported several ethnic clashes and terrorist attacks in recent years, and the Chinese government has accused some Uighurs of having links to terrorist groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.


In the most recent case clashes between ethnic Uighurs and police on 23 April 2013, twenty-one people died when Chinese police raided a suspected terrorist hideout where three people were taken hostage in the Bachu county of Kashgar.


Following the 2009 rioting in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi by Uighurs, which left about 200 people dead and 1,700 injured, the ruling Communist Party promised to promote economic development and social stability for all ethnic groups in the region.