China Takes Bulldozers to Ancient Islamic City

Beijing plans demolition of one of the Silk Road's oldest sites
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2009 6:57 AM CDT
The Old City of Kashgar, a traditional Islamic city in western China.   (©chenyingphoto)
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(Newser) – The Islamic city of Kashgar, in China's far west, has some of the best preserved traditional architecture on the ancient Silk Road, and more than a million tourists a year visit the rambling mud-and-straw buildings that Genghis Khan once passed by. Now, however, the Chinese government wants to tear down Kashgar's Old City, supposedly to "preserve the culture" of the city's Uighur minority. Beijing says it's worried about earthquakes, but as the New York Times reports, many are more afraid of a cultural disaster.

Chinese officials are cagey about the real motives for the demolition, although the security services say Kashgar is nurturing Uighur separatists linked to Muslim extremists. On state TV the government is airing nightly propaganda extolling the new construction, which "will be difficult to match in the world." But locals are not impressed. "My family built this house 500 years ago," said one Old City resident. "The house belongs to us."

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