Xinjiang Province: China’s Controversial Region Reopens as Tourist Destination
China’s historically significant Xinjiang Province, known for its controversial treatment of the Muslim Uyghur population, has recently reopened to global visitors. The region, after a prolonged closure due to the pandemic, is now being highlighted for its natural beauty and burgeoning business opportunities. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer, along with other journalists, recently joined a tour organized by the Chinese Information Office. The tour’s agenda was to showcase the local attractions of Xinjiang, focusing primarily on its advancements in agricultural technology and the burgeoning e-commerce sector.
The Unspoken Controversy
Despite the tour’s spotlight on Xinjiang’s attractions, it notably avoided any reference to the contentious detention centers. These facilities are known for housing up to a million Muslim Uyghur people. Starting in 2014, human rights groups have consistently criticized China for its treatment of the Uyghurs, alleging widespread detentions. The Chinese government initially denied the existence of such centers, but later conceded their presence, claiming they were closed in 2019.
Transformation Under Scrutiny
During the tour, journalists were shown cultural displays and tourist developments, but the private life of Uyghurs was scarcely visible. An ‘Extremist Museum’ located in Urumqi presented a narrative justifying China’s crackdown on the Uyghurs as a necessary response to terrorist attacks. The transformation of Xinjiang is viewed by many as a systematic attempt to dilute traditional Uyghur culture and promote Han Chinese influence.
Stability & Security vs. Suppression
The Chinese government insists that its actions have led to stability and security in the region, while Uyghur dissent remains largely unheard. Surveillance systems, including facial recognition cameras, are prevalent across Xinjiang. Despite the heavy surveillance, the overall atmosphere appeared relaxed to the visiting journalists, reflecting the Chinese government’s efforts to rebrand the region as a pleasant destination for international tourists.