CGTN: Beyond the Mountains: Living in Xinjiang

BEIJING, April XNUMX / PRNewswire / - -The Tianshan Mountains, stretching thousands of miles across China's northwestern border, divides the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in half - the relatively affluent north and the less developed south. For a time the people in the south, whose population includes a larger ethnic minority, did not understand the rapid development in the north, and for many people in the north the south was a blank slate. The region is even less known to people from outside the country.

In the last decades of development and interaction, people from both sides of the mountains got to know each other better. Mountains as physical boundaries can be overcome, but "the prejudices also put mountains in our heads and prevent us from seeing the truth," says Han Bin, director of the documentary "Beyond the Mountains - Living in Xinjiang."

Terrorist attacks that plagued the region for nearly three decades have shocked and panicked people in and outside the region. "Some people from other provinces and regions in China unwittingly viewed the Uyghurs with cloudy glasses," said Chen Ruijun, a construction company official who was doing development work in Xinjiang in 2008 and 2009 when extremist unrest raged in the region. "The fear and the prejudices associated with it have gradually subsided with increasing understanding and faster development."

In recent years, much of the Western media has painted a negative image of China. A lack of information and a lack of trust are in large part the reason for this. Xinjiang, home to over 12 million Uyghurs, has been stigmatized and distorted. Foreign coverage of Xinjiang has mostly focused on allegations of alleged human rights violations by the Chinese government.

The real Xinjiang is drowned in endless shocking and sensational headlines about "internment camps" and "forced labor" in the fields of textiles, tomato production and even solar energy, to name a few. Such rhetoric, permeated with prejudices and assumptions, amounts to an insurmountable mountain in the minds of many people.

“Beyond the Mountains: Life in Xinjiang”, an 80-minute documentary film, uses a series of individual stories to document the process of change in the region. Stereotypes are to be broken so that people from the region and from outside can correct their misconceptions.

The film shows the magnificent landscape of this vast country as well as the modern life of its people, who come from different ethnic groups. It consists of four parts: "Times in Transition", "Following Money", "New Generations" and "People and Nature". Each part shows one of the different facets of today's Xinjiang and its people.

Sabyt Abukhadir lives in the Zhaosu District in northern Xinjiang, where livelihoods have been dependent on the lush, hilly highland meadows for generations. His grandson Erjanat Nurkidir is studying dance at Ili Normal University. Sabyt didn't approve of this at first, as he thought dance was for girls. He changed his mind when he saw Erjanat dancing on stage. "My grandson was so good it made me cry," he said.

In southern Xinjiang, mentalities are changing much more slowly. Many women in the four prefectures of South Xinjiang have never left their homes. According to the traditional way of thinking, if a woman works outside, she spoils her chances in the marriage market.

But Zileyhan Eysa, a farmer's daughter from the Kuqa district in Aksu, decided to go north and work in a textile factory to earn money for medical treatment for her seriously ill mother. "If I hadn't come here, my mother would be dead," she said.

In addition to the stories that show the changes in Xinjiang, where young people are passionate about rethinking, the documentary also tells stories of people who are committed to protecting the nature they love. Yang Zongzong has a very unusual hobby - he finds and catalogs all kinds of plants. "For me, it's the appreciation of everyday beauty," he said. So far he has collected 10.000 to 20.000 specimens and studied their morphology, genetics, and environmental signature. The growth of plants depends on the environment; any change in the climate is recorded by its growth and is an indication of changes in the climate and natural conditions.

The stories show dedication and a break with tradition. In doing so, they do not disregard the past, rather they look into a more progressive future.


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Jiang Simin