+ Peace, sweet peace
Peace, Sweet Peace
The moment my flight from Urumqi landed in Beijing Monday morning, I took a deep breath of relief. Back into the capital city, I saw people strolling, chatting, drinking or simply idling - scenes that were so common and I used to take for granted, now appeared so dear to me. It was not just a feeling about “home, sweet home, “ but a comforting sense of peace, sweet peace.
Yes, the life in Urumqi has appeared to be going back to normalcy in the past couple of days. The streets around the People’s Square, where the July 5 riot started, were again bustling with buses, taxies, pedestrians and vendors selling barbecues and Western-style dolls. Dozens of cars parked in front of a two-story seafood restaurant, a lot that had been vacant for a week.
Yet the city is still under certain degree of uneasiness. Even in the last two or three days before I left Urumqi, reports of sporadic incidents kept coming to my ears, such as a Han got stabbed by two Uygurs in the day time, or an explosion occurred at the International Grant Bazaar, a must-see tourist attraction that has been closed and under heavy security watch since July 5.
It is the fact that people have to be constantly on the alert that troubles the city and its dwellers.
“My Uygur classmates have been very nice to me,” said Wang Beibei, a sophomore at the Urumqi Vocational University. She admitted that she would be afraid to visit Uygur-dominated areas for shopping alone.
A 22-year-old Korean-language major from Zhengding, a county about 300 kilometers south to Beijing, Wang said she had initially planned to settle in Urumqi or other places of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region after graduation.
“Xinjiang is such a beautiful place,” she said. “When you lie down on the grassland to look up into the night sky, the stars would appear so bright and close that you can reach them with your hands.”
Now she is not certain about her plan. “At least I’m not going to move my parents in as I had wanted before. I must make sure they have a peaceful life in their old ages,” she said.
Yilijiang Yiming, a Uygur fireman with Urumqi’s No.8 fire squad, said his wife did not dare to leave home in the following days after the riot. “She’s afraid of vengeful attacks from the Hans,” he said.
Last weekend when I tried to venture into an ally of Uygur outdoor market near Yan’an Road, thinking that my innocent smile would fend off possible hostile stares, as I often did when taking pictures in strange places around China, a police officer at the entry called me back from behind, asking me “better not go any further at this time,” as he could not guarantee my safety.
The watchful eyes of several Uygur young men behind a cardboard sign of “recycling old electronic appliances” also showed their suspicion of me as a Han.
I wish the smiles on the face of a Uygur lady at Shanxi Ally, where I barged in the other day in the name of buying a Uygur traditional scarf, was heartily. The ally was closed by police shortly after I left, for the rest of that day, I was told.
The city is recovering on its daily operation. The scars on people’s hearts, however, will take a much longer time to cure.