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PKU International Students Take a First-hand Look at Xinjiang

OCT . 14 2021
Peking University, October 14, 2021: On 1 to 6 October, 2021, 20 international students from Peking University (PKU) visited the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The trip, organized by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and Peking University, came as Chinese President Xi called for the international students of PKU to gain a deeper understanding of China's history, cultural traditions, and social development in his letter to 45 PKU international students from 32 countries in June 2021.

The 20 students made stops at Kashgar, Hotan, Shihezi and Urumqi, and visited villages, enterprises, schools, mosques, bazaars and exhibitions to fully experience the stability, peace and prosperity of the land.

Bustling sights

On the afternoon of 1 October, shortly after arriving in Kashgar by plane, the PKU students headed to Kashgar Old City, a historic spot famed for its beautiful architecture. The students chanced upon the City's opening ceremony and got to witness people of different ethnic groups dancing in costume at the entrance, a lively scene they eagerly recorded.

A PKU student dancing with locals at Kashgar

Sapargeldi Amangeldiyev, a Turkmen student from PKU College of Engineering, was impressed upon learning that one of the Uyghur dancers over 70 years old participates in the performances all year round solely out of interest. "You can feel their enthusiasm for life."

The PKU students visited during Xinjiang's tourist season. On their way, local residents and tourists alike greeted them or asked for photos. There were also Uyghur children who bonded with the students through a soccer game or two. Martin Mcallister Francis, a British student from PKU School of International Studies, exclaimed, "The people here are so nice and friendly, and welcome our stay."

At Kashgar Old City and Hotan night market, PKU students were invited to join the sea of song and dance time and again. In no time, Alexandra Pozhidaeva, a Russian student from PKU School of Journalism and Communication, had mastered quite a few authentic dance moves. "It's hard to believe that I'm situated at China's remote frontier. It feels like I'm in a metropolis instead!”

Sunny Md Mahedi Hassan, a Bangladeshi student from Yuanpei College of PKU, was very impressed by how the various ethnic groups in Xinjiang lived in harmony. In Kashgar Old City, "People looked different and spoke different languages, but they all looked joyful. The street sang different tunes in different styles. I realized that in Xinjiang, the cultures of different ethnic groups have blended together. Here, all cultures are protected and loved and enjoyed by all. We, the international students in China, serve as bridges between China and our respective countries, and are ready to shed light on the real situation here in Xinjiang."

While strolling in the quiet Gaotai neighbourhood in Kashgar, Jeongha Lee, a Korean student from PKU Department of Chinese Language and Literature, observed how the locals went about life at a leisurely pace. "I could see that they love and enjoy living," Lee mused watching people come and go in the streets.

Driving change

From 2 to 3 October, PKU students headed to the rural areas of Kashgar and Hotan to visit workshops, medical institutions, online retailers, and more. They also visited the homes of ethnic minorities and spoke with the villagers and grassroots leaders.

The villagers told PKU students that though their hometowns were mired in poverty in the past, today the people need not worry about being fed and clothed. Compulsory education, basic medical care, and housing security have all been guaranteed. Many either enter the cities to work or stay in their hometowns to start their own businesses.

PKU students were ever the more inquisitive, asking about job training, start-up capital, and the impact of the epidemic on businesses. They were especially focused on how the villagers could avoid a return to poverty and realize "rural revitalization" after battling absolute poverty. Sunny commented that in Xinjiang,“Everyone is working hard and striving to make life better."

PKU students experience livestreaming e-commerce at Hotan

Some are also trying to help others achieve change. Through several interviews, the PKU students managed to contact a group of grassroots leaders based in southern Xinjiang. The group includes county-level leaders who have graduated from PKU, as well as college student village officers who are far away from home.

Mohammad Ramin Mansoori, a student from Afghanistan, said he came to Xinjiang wondering about  the living conditions of the locals. "I saw that the Chinese government has invested money to pave dirt roads with asphalt. The education of rural children is also well guaranteed. From these details, it is evident that Xinjiang is making progress.”Pierre Gacira, a Burundian student from PKU School of International Studies, said, "The CPC members are capable of putting their words to action. The policies I have seen in Xinjiang and the changes they have brought about reflect this well.”

PKU students observing the weaving of Etles Silk at Hotan

Bringing Xinjiang to the world

As the Chinese saying "Seeing for oneself is a hundred times better than hearing from others”(百闻不如一见) goes, the PKU students also visited cotton fields, mosques and universities to learn more about pertinent topics reported by Western media from relevant personnel on the ground.

In the northern Xinjiang city of Shihezi, Joseph Olivier Mendo'o, a Cameroonian student from PKU School of International Studies, and his classmates got to experience cotton picking on site in a cotton field, and observed a local farmer harvesting cotton on a large cotton picker. "Mechanized harvesting is way too efficient! I'm grateful to the farmers for leaving a patch of cotton for us to pick,”British student Martin lamented.

Bangladeshi student Sunny Md Mahedi Hassan (first from left) takes a video of his ride on the cotton picker

"Cotton cultivation and production in Xinjiang benefit from an array of technologies such as drip irrigation and mechanized cotton picking, and no longer requires much manpower." Mendo'o said. With rapid economic development in Xinjiang, he also observed healthy and sanitary lifestyles are spreading rapidly in the countryside. "I saw the efficient construction of toilets, the upgrading of garbage and sewage treatment facilities, and great changes in the rural landscape. The village has truly become wonderful,”Joseph Olivier Mendo'o said.

Writer: Li Wanqi
Editor: Amanda Hu
Photo: Cui Zhe, PKU internaitonal students, Xinhua News Agency
Source: Xinhua News Agency, International Students Division, Office of International Relations, PKU