'We are not like them,' say Uyghurs in Kunming

Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-3-4 11:18:38

Dashuying village in Jinma township is an out-of-the-way community about 8 kilometers east of Kunming's city center.

It is home to about 3,600 permanent residents, mostly retirees from an old state-run factory nearby.

Its vitality mainly comes from over 20,000 migrants from other parts of China, including 135 Uyghurs from northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region -- the largest single group of Uyghur dwellers in Kunming.

"We are not like them," said Abliz, a 62-year-old Uyghur who has run a store with his son and daughter-in-law for 11 years.

He was referring to the terrorists from Xinjiang who, black-clad and wielding long knives, killed 29 civilians and injured 143 at Kunming railway station Saturday night.

"Everyone in the neighborhood knows it's safe to buy food here. They know we are honest, law-abiding people -- they have eyes and brains," he said in Mandarin Chinese with a strong Uyghur accent.

The store, covering about 10 square meters, serves Xinjiang-style fast food, such as noodles, fried mutton, pancakes and buns, at two small tables. It also sells raisins, nuts, tea and dairy products from Xinjiang.

At lunchtime, his longtime customers -- mostly Uyghurs, but a few Han people as well -- dropped in for a quick meal.

"Business is more or less the same as before," said Abliz.

Many relatives called from his hometown in Xinjiang's Ili to see how he was getting along.

"They said if the locals were hostile to the Uyghurs, I might as well go back home," he said.

But Abliz said he would stay.

"Some people are watchful, but nobody is hostile," he said. "We've lived here long enough to feel like part of the community. We're certainly not ready to move, because my grandson still goes to school in Kunming."

Han and Uyghurs

Abliz's store is one of many Xinjiang-style stores and restaurants in the community.

The community, close to Kunming's second ring road, has easy access to traffic, but living conditions are not comparable to the cozy, modern communities in downtown Kunming.

Most of the native residents live in small apartments their former employers sold them for comparatively low prices. These are gray brick structures built in the 1980s of five or six stories tall.

Others have had private properties built in the neighborhood and have leased extra rooms to migrants.

As a result of this property expansion, the narrow streets in town are fully packed with buildings on both sides: some are less than 2 meters apart and one can smell what the neighbors are cooking without leaving the house.

Most of the town dwellers are employed locally, so life is convenient.

Dashuying community has two grocery markets, a school, a hospital, dozens of restaurants and countless roadside stores selling anything from food and drinks to lottery tickets and underwear.

A poster outside a barber shop says that a haircut costs 10 yuan. For 150 yuan, customers can get a tattoo.

Zhu Zhengqun, a woman from Yunnan's Zhaotong City, runs a tailor's shop and helps attend to her aunt's property: a 6-storey building with 12 rooms ranging from 7 to 18 square meters each.

All the rooms are leased to migrants for 300 to 420 yuan a month each. The tenants share one bathroom.

"We never rent rooms to Uyghurs," said Zhu, 36. "In fact, the Uyghurs all live close to one another on the other side of the street. Sometimes they hire a whole building."

Zhu and her husband, a man from Sichuan Province, have lived in the community for 10 years. Their children, a boy and a girl, were born and brought up here.

Zhu described the Han residents and Uyghurs as two "isolated" groups. "Each minds his own business. You can't say they are on good terms: there's no conflict, but very little in common, too."

But she believes "there are kind people everywhere, of all ethnic groups."

"You can't say all the Uyghurs are bad only because some of them have become terrorists," she said.

Zhu's neighbor, a junk collector surnamed Wang, sometimes collects waste from the Uyghur people in town.

"I'd say they are nice people, friendly and straightforward. When I offer a price, they always say 'deal' and seldom bargain," said Wang.

After Saturday's knife attacks, however, Wang stopped visiting the Uyghur families for junk. The community was seized with tension: many police cars could be seen, and policemen patrolled its streets in pairs.

The killings also brought a flood of reporters to the obscure town, including foreign reporters.

Despite their calm posture and easygoing manner, the townspeople have been reluctant to face the press.

A young Uyghur man who was making buns outside a fast food restaurant refused to say a word and turned around to escape the lens of a Hong Kong reporter.

"I talk to you because we are all Chinese," Abliz told Xinhua. "I don't talk to foreigners."

"We don't speak their language and don't want them to misinterpret us," explained his son, Abliz Lahim.

Most of the town dwellers Xinhua interviewed Monday said they hoped Kunming would soon recover from the aftermath of the killings.

"Life still goes on, and I hope this lovely little town will continue to be my home," said Abliz.

"It's a good place for doing business," said Zhang Dawei, a barbecue restaurant owner and Han national, adding that the village has "a good location, enough spending power and adequate supplies."

Liu Huihong, a community committee official, was optimistic the place would remain "peaceful and in good order."

"I've been working at the community for 10 years," he said. "The residents -- Han, Uyghur and a few Muslim Hui people -- never had any disputes. Even thefts were rarely reported."

Liu said he was indignant at and grieved by Saturday's killings.

"I hope the injured will recover soon and the terrorists will be brought to justice," he said. "There are good Uyghurs and bad Uyghurs. The same is true with any other ethnic groups. But our community is always open to law-abiding citizens of all groups."

Posted in: Society

blog comments powered by Disqus