Urumqi Security

I was aware of the unrest and problems in Xinjiang before I went to Urumqi, but I wasn’t prepared for all the check points and security measures that are part of daily life in Xinjiang.

Hong Shan Park

Hong Shan Park

Occasionally, the Uighurs who’d like to separate from China take violent action. The Chinese hold the extremists or freedom fighters depending on your perspective responsible for a car bomb incident in Tianamen Square, a deadly, coordinated knife attack at a train station in Kunming, a bombing at a market in Urumqi and attacks lasting two days in Kashgar.

When I arrived in Urumqi my taxi from the airport had to get gas. This was my first taste of the security measures. The driver approached the gas station and stopped by a guard post. Then he motioned for me to get out of the car as he opened the trunk with my bags. All this was pantomimed so I was worried it was a scam, but no. This was normal procedure. I got out and was directed to a bench covered to keep the sun and rain off the waiting passengers. Only the driver can go to the pumps after passing inspection. A few minutes later the taxi re-appeared and I could go back in.

At the hotel I had to put my bags through an X-ray before I could check in. This would become routine.

Tank in a parking lot

Tank in a parking lot

When I visited the major park downtown, I was surprised to see a SWAT team outside the entrance. They were there every time I passed. After going through a metal detector and putting my bag through the X-Ray, I entered. Inside there wasn’t the usual joie de vivre. Some people had finished tai chi, but you didn’t see much dancing, badminton, exercising or martial arts. They had a lot of amusement rides that you paid for, but no one was on them. I did see a group of 4 soldiers marching through the park and later 4 police who were more like sauntering. In a few spots soldiers were posted to keep watch.

To take the air conditioned buses, you have to go through a security check and open up your bag. I learned you can’t bring water through the bus security. You can’t bring on lighters or yogurt. It’s in the 90°F+/36°C so I didn’t want to surrender my water each time I took the bus so I wound up finding ways to hide it in my bag, which was doable since they didn’t really think I’d be a terrorist, which a very safe bet. Still it’s such a pain.

Another Tank

Another Tank

I went to a Burger King one day and by the entrance they had a desk with a riot helmet, riot police shield, and wand for metal detection. I saw the same thing at a bookstore too. I never say a guard behind the door at any place, but think that perhaps these are props to keep people in line.

After awhile it just got to be too much. By mid-afternoon most days, I’d just get so tired of going through  security checks. I don’t know how people take it day after day all the time.

Community Outreach

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Over the holiday the police were downtown showing folks all the various riot gear they have.

Why?

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Demonstrating riot gear downtown

Demonstrating riot gear downtown

Published

Although I became resigned to the fact that the Korean police weren’t going to exert themselves in investigating my cyber crime, one friend of mine kept trying to find ways to move forward. I knew it was a futile effort, but I also know that this friend is more or less stuck in Korea till he retires in 10 years and that he was getting some satisfaction from the project. Every now and then he’d ask me to provide information as he tried to get lawyer friends to intervene.

While it was a lost cause, sometimes I think people can’t be talked out of things and that circumstances are the best teacher. I often liken this to learning to walk. The best coach is gravity. You can’t tell a child “If you try to go to fast . . .” or “If you put your foot down like that, you’ll probably fall.” They need the experience not words to teach them. So finally, my friend has concluded that nothing can be done. He needed several lawyers to convince him. When I started to try, he thought I was a quitter. It was best to let it work out this way.

Well, I did see that that experience should not be for naught. Ne’er do wells got away with something and they’ll try again. Yet vengeance is is foolish. One big problem that was as bad as the crime itself was that the police didn’t follow through and acted in a strange fashion. They went to the crime scene and collected evidence. They did some interviews and never looked at what they collected. Also, they refused to contact the internet services like Yahoo! and Google to obtain evidence. They gave me a song and dance about not being able to obtain the evidence, but both companies told me what was needed and I found out that Korea and the U.S. have a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty so investigation beyond the evidence they sat on was possible. As time wore on it was easier to see that any foreigner and many Koreans would have been ignored.

The only thing I could do, though perhaps not all that effective would be to write to the newspaper. They did publish my editorial which objectively calls for better services for crime victims. I realize few will read it, but I have the satisfaction of having done all I could. Here’s the editorial. Not my best work, but okay.

Also, if there’s any crime victims who need the text of this treaty along with the form and directions on how the police should fill it out and submit it, contact me.

Disclaimer

Dear Fellows, The State Department has requested that any Fellows who maintain their own blog or website please post the following disclaimer on your site: "This website is not an official U.S. Department of State website. The views and information presented are the English Language Fellows' own and do not represent the English Language Fellow Program or the U.S. Department of State." We appreciate your cooperation. Site Meter
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