An autonomous region in China equivalent to a province, whose population is mostly composed of an ethnic minority. The Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang is also known as East Turkistan, Chinese Turkistan or Uyghuristan, but not by the Chinese (for political reasons). The population is 21 million split between Hans, Uighurs, Kazakhstan, Hui, Mongols, Russians and several other ethnic groups, with Islam being the main religion in the region. Mosques are common to find around here.
The Chinese government encouraged colonization in this region by the Hans from 1949, a strategic region rich in oil and ore. A region where 90% of the inhabitants were Uighur ethnic groups, today represents less than 50%, Uighur (45.2%), Han (40.6%), Kazakhs (6.7%), Hui (4.6%) and other ethnic groups. The Hans Chinese always end up having the best jobs and holding good positions in government. One more reason for the enmity between Hans and Uighurs.
The Uighurs, as well as the Tibetans, Mongols and others, are oppressed by the Chinese government. In China, the poor Uighur children and teenagers end up committing minor crimes and they are easy to be identified, as they look like Westerners. There is a lot of them in Xian, I saw some of them getting into a police truck.
Many nuclear tests were conducted in the deserts of Xinjiang, as a consequence, cases of death from cancer, deformities in sheep and newborns began to appear, which motivated the protests in 1986.
In the past decade several separatist movements in the cities of Kashgar and Ürümqi have taken shape, some through acts of terrorism. The Chinese government has severely suppressed any hint of these moves by sending army and air force troops, executions, curfews in Kashgar and torture. With the September 11, 2001 bombing in the U.S., the fight against terrorism gained momentum and served as an excuse for the Chinese government to act with even greater intolerance.