China ravages Xinjiang cultural heritage

Rian Thum, well-known scholar of Uyghur history, just published dreadful satellite imagery showing that a major sacred site in the famous Xinjiang city of Khotan has been bulldozed — and turned into a parking lot. See this Twitter thread starting April 28.

The Australia-based forensic analyst Nathan Ruser (who has previously analyzed satellite imagery from Xinjiang, including the notorious leaked video of a concentration camp detainee mass transport), adds new photos and discussion.

Meanwhile, another sacred site, the gravesite of the modern Uyghur national literary hero Lutpulla Mutellip, had already been turned into an ugly kitschy park.

Where is UNESCO, ICOMOS, etc.? Where are the world’s professional organizations of archaeologists, cultural heritage scholars? I can’t see that even ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, has said anything — in 2009, the US national subcommittee of ICOMOS did express concern when the old town of Kashgar was demolished and disneyified, but not now.

There is clearly currently an organized multi-year campaign to destroy Xinjiang’s indigenous cultural heritage: razing mosques, neighborhoods, sacred pilgrimage sites, even private-home ethnic interior design and decorations, and more,;!!KGKeukY!iTwm42KJko3Uv5v41duxWI8Gu_TvnmzAr3_Fnh3pPA-InpIxXfHQOudCl0OoQRY$


This ghastly campaign is clearly part of the broader Chinese government assault on the indigenous peoples of Xinjiang (East Turkestan) ongoing since 2017, a campaign which aims to destroy their identity and autonomy, by way of harsh discrimination and persecution, concentration camps for identity-conversion, family separations, and more. All these aspects are widely documented and together certainly appears to amount to a genocide:;!!KGKeukY!iTwm42KJko3Uv5v41duxWI8Gu_TvnmzAr3_Fnh3pPA-InpIxXfHQOudCHcUc0so$

In this situation, it is curious that this destruction of cultural heritage, which can be compared with ISIS or the Taliban, can proceed so openly without UNESCO, ICOMOS, cultural heritage professionals, and other competent bodies and experts protesting loudly to the Chinese government and publicizing these atrocities to the world, to try to stop the bulldozing.

Magnus Fiskesjö
Cornell University

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