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September 9, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright September 9, 2009 Timothy B. Weston. Used by permission.


In April 2008 I published an interview at China Beat entitled “Growing Up Han: Reflections on a Xinjiang Childhood” that I conducted with a Chinese student named Leong who attends the University of Colorado, where I teach. Leong and I had been talking about doing a follow-up interview since that time but decided to wait until after he returned from a long-planned trip home to Urumqi during summer 2009 to do it. We figured his trip home and the feelings it generated in him might make for a good interview. Of course, neither of us could have anticipated the tumultuous events that shook Urumqi this past summer and beyond, nor could we have imagined that our follow-up interview would be dominated by such subject matter. In many respects, the events of this past summer challenge the picture of relative multi-ethnic harmony that Leong described in our original interview. The following chilling account of Leong’s experience this past summer offers a rare perspective on the recent news coming out of Urumqi. We hope that it will be of interest to readers.

Timothy B. Weston: Please remind readers where you grew up, what your ethnicity is, and where you live now.

Leong: I am Han Chinese and was born in Urumqi in early 1980. I grew up in Urumqi playing with kids from different ethnic groups. My neighborhood is only several blocks away from Erdaoqiao, traditionally the Uighur quarter of the city. I left home for college in Beijing when I was 18 and I’m currently working on my Ph.D. in the United States.

TW: When was the last time you visited your hometown of Urumqi?

Leong: This summer is actually the first time I went back home since I left China two years ago.