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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

"Paved paradise ..put up a parking lot"

Kazakh and Uygurs Ranking high on the things I abhor most is the demeaning of a culture by way of packaging it for the consumption of the tourist market.

Australian aborigines selling "boomerangs" manufactured in China, Navajo Indians selling bows and arrows, The list goes on.

The thought of tourists viewing a "culture" for pure hedonistic pleasure rather than to learn and to stand in awe of the history of a people is anathema to me.

So I feel a degree of sadness when I read articles such as the one I link to here.

"Other culture hotels that have been developed include the Islamic-style Silk Road Turpan Oasis Hotel in Xinjiang with its strong Uygur flavour; the Tibetan-style Silk Road Tsongkha Hotel near the Taer Monastery in Qinghai."

The article is about one Hong Kong entrepreneur a Mr Peter M.K. Wong, managing director of North West Development Ltd, who gleefully reveals the plans his company has for Xinjiang and Tibet:

Its scope of business includes the development and management of hotels, including the development of "cultural hotels"; cultural property development; the sale and marketing of cultural products; and the operation of tour services.

It would appear that his company was behind the idea of converting the centuries old central Uygur bazaar in Urumqi the capital of Xinjiang and replacing it with the equivalent of a "themed" shopping mall. The renovation of the area has been universally condemned by the Uygur people as the equivalent of sacrilege against their culture. As well, the traditional users of this bazaar, small Uygur tradesman, artisans,street hawkers, farmers etc have been shunted on with numerous stories of police harassment. Our wonderful entrepreneur sees the funny side though:

A local developer was found for the project, dubbed the Erdaoqiao Cultural Region. It is now a centre of attraction in the city with Central Asia-type grand bazaars and caravanserai, albeit with Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds and Carrefour also present. "That's what I call cultural exchange," quips Wong.

"'That's what I call cultural exchange'" quips Wong".

That is what I call cultural RAPE.

How demeaning to package up a culture like that of the Uygurs and Tibetans into something akin to a human zoo with performing seals and monkeys replaced by real people. A people and culture that once ruled mighty empires now reduced to a sideshow for visiting newly weds and and bussed in foreign tourists. "Hey Mable look at Jim's and my pictures of our holiday to China, see there ...that is a real Uygur in a real 'bazaar' in Urumqi". How very very sad.

Already the Chinese government has it's happy "Cultural groups" that it trots out at ceremonial occasions and for visiting dignitaries; Dancing Uygurs and Tibetans, Uygur acrobats et al. Now they can be taken to a 5 star "Islamic" designed Hotel and enjoy the "culture" of these unique peoples up live and personal

Who can wonder why the Uygur claim they are being subjected to "cultural genocide and who says the Han Chinese are not a culturally sensitive lot?

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