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26 July 2009


David Eldon

The following is from Paul:
"Hi June,
I'm pleased that you're enjoying the story and thank you for your comments.

The territory of Xinjiang is a tricky one. I agree that a place doesn't necessarily have to look like the "mother country" as it were. Does Gilbratar look like a Cornish fishing village? And what of the Netherlands Antilles? Hardly clog wearing, tulip growing windmill loving inhabitants there (stereotypically speaking of course). But what unites these two satellites of their respective kingdoms? A desire to be a part of the home country. Gibraltarians want to remain as a part of the UK. Although Aruba seceded from the group of islands that make up the Dutch Antilles (1986) they still remain a state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In the case of Xinjiang the generation of Uyghur people that I spoke with do not want to be a part of China. For example, they don't share any of the customs of their Chinese cousins (which is an argument that can be given for a number of the 55 officially recognised ethnic minorities in the PRC, notable among them Inner Mongolians and Hui Chinese from Ningxia). And the authorities don't seem all that interested in maintaining a balance between these two wildly different cultures. Look at the decision of the local government in Kashgar and their plans to demolish the historic and endlessly fascinating old city. (I will touch upon our walk through the city in the next post.)

The official PRC government website for the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region states that the territory has always been a part of China. Okay, fair-ish comment (it was part of the Tang Dynasty [618-907]). But then is there not also an argument about the sovereignty of the three "countries" that make up Great Britain? I'm sure that there are a number of Scots that would argue (violently, probably) for the removal of quotation marks from that last sentence.

It's an interesting topic and, in the right place, further discussion would I'm sure be both lively and informative. But, as I'm sure you'll and anyone else reading would agree, given the sensitivity of the issue here is not the place to debate whether Xinjiang should once again declare themselves East Turkestan (c/f early 20th Century). My view is that there is a strong case for independence should it ever come up. Having said that, what happened a few weeks ago indicates to me that the dragon is very much awake and feeling protective of her children. Best just leave her alone."


Dear Paul

I too am enjoying your travel accounts - your writing is very enjoyable. I particularly found your description of the hotpot experience in the last "episode" (and how you tricked everyone into believing that you knew what you were feeding them when you had no idea!) very funny! I look forward to your next "episodes" - you write with a very nice sense of humour and sensitivity.

I note with curiosity in a comment you made: that you think "the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has a strong case for independence". Not that I wanted to start a heavy political and philosophical debate, but I am very interested in how different people think of issues of independence. Would you care to elaborate more on why you think it has a strong case please? Must a place look/be very "Chinese" to be part of a country called China?

David Eldon

The following is from Paul:
"Thank you for your comments Tim, I enjoy writing them. I am also re-posting what I write on my own (infrequently used) blog where I have done something similar with a trip I did just prior to this to India (http://www.rightpersonwrongplace.com). I set up the site as part of my job application for Tourism Queensland's hunt for an Island Caretaker earlier this year (http://www.islandreefjob.com.au); I wonder if you heard about it? There's full information including my application video on the blog.
In any case, after I have finished this serialisation if I do any more writing that is where it will be.
I do have pictures of the China trip, and they will be put up on my own blog in due course."
And from me; what a nice surprise Tim to find that you have discovered the Blog.

Tim Edgar

Paul, this is a fascinating and very readable travelogue. I always look forward to your next episode so I hope you will continue beyond the end of this journey... Any pictures?

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