There has been violence this past week in Urumqi (the capital of Xinjiang province) between Uighurs (the majority ethnic group) and Han Chinese.
There are 20 million people living in Xinjiang. In today's Times, Edward Wong has a very good, succinct summary (here) of the region's history. Wong writes that the central government has attempted to colonize the region since at least the Qing Dynasty but that the efforts to exert central control were increased dramatically when the Communists came to power.
The Chinese government is arguing that its efforts in Xinjiang have increased the GDP there from $28 billion in 2004 to $60 billion in 2008. The Uighurs don't seem to be calling for independence/sovereignty, so far as I can tell, but they definitely want a greater level of autonomy from Beijing.
The most fascinating piece of information in the story is one scholar's belief that Xinjiang might be one of the last places in the world into which humans migrated.
252. What would be the other "last places" of migration?
Edward Wong has been reporting from all over the place during the past year. He was the Times's key reporter in Iraq for a long time, and then I think he was in Afghanistan for a while before heading to Xinjiang.
This picture is by Peter Parks, from today's Times.