European Parliament Calls on China to Halt Destruction of Ancient Kashgar

Rigorous urban planning in Kashgar

Published on 30 April 2011

Author(s): Heritage on the wire

Type:  Blog Published 14 March 2011

Members of the European parliament demand China to carry out a comprehensive expert inquiry into culture-sensitive methods of renovation

In a resolution released Thursday, Members of the European Parliament (MEP) called on China to immediately stop the destruction threatening the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar and to carry out a comprehensive expert inquiry into culture-sensitive methods of renovation.

Since 2009, a program called “Kashgar Dangerous House Reform” has been progressively destroying historical houses and buildings, with plans to ultimately demolish 85 percent of the traditional Old City. The MEP resolution charges the Chinese government with “forcibly resettling residents without considering the loss of priceless historical and cultural heritage, and without giving priority to the preservation of relics or principal building artifacts and architecture in order to pass on to future generations, and to the world, objects illustrating the thousands of years of Chinese historical and cultural development.”

85 percent of Kashgar’s old city is expected to be destroyed by the end of 2011. Photo Fred Chiang.jpg
85 percent of Kashgar’s old city is expected to be destroyed by the end of 2011. Photo: Fred Chiang

For centuries, China’s Kashgar prefecture has existed as a unique and historic region, set far apart from the rest of the country. Situated along China’s westernmost edge, bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kashgar City’s population is around 350,000 and consists mostly of Muslim Uyghurs. Home to China’s largest mosque and the tomb of Abakh Khoja, one of the holiest Muslim sites in Xinjiang, Kashgar is considered one of the world’s best-preserved examples of a traditional Islamic city.

Kashgar’s old town on Global Heritage Network. The site is coded as “At Risk” due to Development Pressures..jpg
Kashgar’s old town on Global Heritage Network. The site is coded as “At Risk” due to Development Pressures.

The Chinese government has been heavily criticized for its program of destructive modernization and urban development in Kashgar, but officials have shown no mercy toward the city’s disappearing cultural heritage. The government, which has deemed the old town overcrowded and unsafe (half the city’s population lives there), has been reluctant to consider culturally sensitive renovation possibilities, instead insisting that earthquake proofing necessitates total demolition and rebuilding.

The MEP resolution urges the Chinese government to reverse its course in Kashgar and consider the irreplaceable treasures being destroyed every day. The resolution suggests the government consider adding Kashgar to a joint application with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for a “Silk Road” UNESCO World Heritage designation and also calls on Chinese authorities to “make every effort to develop a genuine Han-Uyghur dialogue, to adopt more inclusive and comprehensive economic policies in Xinjiang aimed at strengthening local ownership, and to protect the cultural identity of the Uyghur population.”

Click here to explore Kashgar on Global Heritage Network

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