One of our great journalistic mentors taught us that every saga is about money, at least on some level. That axiom certainly appears to hold true in Xinjiang, the western Chinese province that has suffered through days of deadly riots. As the Financial Times explained last year, Muslim Uighurs are incensed not only with the central government’s heavy-handed security apparatus, but also with economic discrimination in Xinjiang’s booming oil fields:
On Petrochemical Boulevard, the main street in Korla, the only visible Uighurs are street cleaners and the odd waiter hanging out in the doorway of a Muslim restaurant.
Locals say Uighurs are sometimes given low-level jobs in the oilfields, but there are none in management positions in Korla. In spite of affirmative action programmes that reserve a proportion of official posts for minority groups, all government and military positions with any real power are held by Han Chinese.
PetroChina and its Korla subsidiary refused to be interviewed, but one former employee said discrimination was rife within the company.
“There used to be two Uighurs driving for the oil company here,” said this former employee, who asked to be known only by his surname, Ma. “But they were moved to a different work unit because the bosses think Muslims are all terrorists and separatists.”
Also worth checking out: The AP’s profile of Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled Uighur leader now living in northern Virginia.