Chinese journalist draws flak on Twitter for happy portrayal of Kashgar, Xinjiang in travelogue

Twitter is officially blocked in China.

Natalie Teo |
July 25, 2023, 3:50 pm

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Twitter user Li Jingjing, who identifies herself as a journalist and political commentator in her Twitter bio, is facing backlash over a recent video she posted of a trip to Kashgar, Xinjiang.

In Jingjing’s tweet, she questions: “Do people look oppressed? Does the city look like an open-air prison like the U.S. said?”

The 12-minute long video showcases the Id Kah mosque, dances by various ethnic groups, and the works of an Uyghur designer.

The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group native to Xinjiang and are predominantly Muslim.

What’s in the video

In her video, Jingjing introduces the various ethnic groups who live in the city, calling it the “perfect place to experience the very diverse cultures”.

Introducing the Id Kah mosque, the biggest mosque in China, she mentions that “Id Kah” means “happy square”.

According to her, during the festival of Eid al-Adha — the Feast of Sacrifice — 20,000 to 30,000 people gather in the square to celebrate.

However, the square isn’t just for Muslims, and Jingjing also observes that it is a place for other locals “to chill, to take a nap, to hang out with friends”.

She also introduces a street food, Nang bread, and expresses appreciation for the architectural style of the locals’ homes.

A woman dressed in traditional attire on the balcony of her home.

Jingjing moves on to Guli’s House, where visitors can watch dances from various ethnic groups.

Various dances showcased in the video.

She also visits a local Uyghur designer named Mewlan Turaq, 30, who is “dedicated to preserving the ethnic minorities’ traditional clothing”.

Mewlan also exhibits antiques from various cultures in his store, and says he is also learning about the clothing of other cultures to promote them to the world.

The internet reacts

Many other Twitter users were far from impressed by her video, with some calling it “propaganda”.

User Vaibhav Roy questioned the apparent convenience of a camera being present just as people were dancing in her video, drawing comparisons to India, which similarly has a wide variety of dance forms.

One user, who identified himself as Uyghur-born, claimed that he has not been able to contact his own family in Kashgar since 2017.

The video was also uploaded to her YouTube channel, where she posts other content about current affairs with a China focus.

On the YouTube video, which was titled “SHOCKING footage of Kashgar, Xinjiang!”, comments were much more complimentary:

The controversy over Xinjiang

Xinjiang, officially named the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is a province located in the Northeast of China.

The province is home to several minority groups, with the largest being the Uyghurs.

In recent years, there have been numerous controversies over alleged genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims.

This explainer by CNN points to minority groups’ dissatisfaction with being left out of China’s economic boom and restrictions on religious expression that led to inter-ethnic tensions.

The July 2009 Urumqi riots led to a government clampdown that saw further restrictions placed on Muslim groups such as banning veils and preventing Muslim officials from fasting during Ramadan.

It is also alleged that Muslims have been put in detention camps, where former detainees have said they experienced political indoctrination and abuse.

BBC also reports that women have been forcibly sterilised and children have been separated from their families to isolate them from Muslim communities.

Additionally, leaked documents from Xinjiang revealed an apparent shoot-to-kill policy for attempted escapes from such camps.

However, China has denied the abuses in Xinjiang, referring to them instead as “vocational training centres” to curb terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism.

All images via Li Jingjing YouTube.

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