Abduweli Ayup did not come back Having been to Kashgar since 2015, his chances of doing so in the short term seem slim. He said the Chinese government had cancelled his passport.
Sometimes he watches videos on YouTube in his hometown. They don’t make him feel better. It felt compulsive, he said, “like eating bad food.”
“You know, you want to keep eating it, but then your stomach gets upset,” he adds. As he watched a video while talking to a BuzzFeed News reporter, Ayupi pointed to a giant sculpture of a traditional stringed instrument at the city gate. “Look at that, it’s just for tourists,” he said.
The city is now full of these photogenic additions. There are giant teapots at the main intersection near the city gate. Elsewhere, murals show maps of Xinjiang, or carry slogans such as “Impressions of Xinjiang,” and tourists stop to take pictures. A new entrance has been added to the metalwork market, featuring a large sign featuring silhouetted figures hammering iron. The anvil statue in the corner now has projection-mapped flames, and a piping soundtrack of sparks and metal being struck. You can also ride camels.
In the videos he’s seen, Ayup also noticed footage of people dancing in traditional Uyghur costumes — which they may have been wearing more than a century ago. Figures like these can be seen on Chinese state television and on the country’s annual rubber-stamp parliamentary meeting. “Nobody’s going to wear that anymore unless it’s for a show,” Ayup said.
Tourism in Xinjiang is booming. Last year, 190 million tourists visited the region, an increase of more than 20 percent from the previous year, despite a drop in global numbers due to the pandemic. Revenue rose 43%. as its “Xinjiang is a magical land” campaign, the Chinese government produced English-language videos and held events to promote the region’s vision of peace, new prosperity, dramatic landscapes and rich culture.
Chinese state media has also described it as an economic growth engine for locals in Xinjiang. an article Describes how a former concentration camp detainee named Aliye Ablimit received hospitality training after his release. “After graduation, I became a tour guide in the ancient city of Kashgar,” Ablimit said, according to the article. “Later, I turned my home into a B&B. Tourists like my house very much because of its Uyghur style. All the rooms are fully booked these days. Now my monthly income is about 50,000 yuan,” about $7,475.
The facade of the Kashgar Mosque is not very good. Many of the smaller community mosques appear to be out of service, with their wooden doors damaged and closed with padlocks – and some have been completely demolished or converted for other uses, including cafes and public toilets.
Inside the Id Kah mosque, many cameras have disappeared, including in the prayer hall.But as expected over the past five years, many admirers have also disappeared, from 4,000–5,000 Friday prayers in 2011 Only about 800 today.
The mosque’s imam, Mamat Juma, admitted this in an April 2021 interview with a vlogger who regularly produces videos in support of the Chinese government’s narrative, which the vlogger posted in April 2021. He pointed out through a translator that not all Uyghurs were Muslims and undermined the role of religion in Uyghur culture. “I’m really worried that the number of believers will decrease,” he said, “but that shouldn’t be a reason to force them to pray here.” ●
Additional reporting by Irene Benedicto