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Foreign experts applaud China's respect of Xinjiang culture

By ZHAO JIA | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-04-15 20:38

Members of the delegation visited homes of local residents in the Kazanqi folk tourism area in the ancient city of Ili and spoke with them. [Photo by Zhao Jia/China Daily]

Foreign experts and reporters lauded China's efforts to respect the freedom of religious belief and protect the tradition of ethnic groups, saying they witnessed a Xinjiang with prosperous and diversified culture during their first trip to the region.

Eleven experts and reporters from eight Asian and Middle East countries recently concluded a visit to China's northwest Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, which took them to several places including mosques and communities where ethnic minorities lived.

"I am really happy to visit Xinjiang Islamic Institute in Urumqi because I can see how the religious institutions are given so much prominence," Executive Editor of the New Straits Times in Malaysia Sharanjit Singh said.

Established in 1987, the institute represents a significant milestone in promoting religious freedom, education and cultural understanding. As the only religious institution of higher learning in Xinjiang, the institute also has 8 branches in other cities of the autonomous region.

Singh said he was surprised to see how modern the institute was with grand buildings, a stocked library, places for recreation and classes conducted transparently.

"It is just not what you read or sometimes hear. Everything we learned here is totally different from that," he said.

"When we went around, everybody looks like very happy. I don't see anything negative about the region at all," he said while instantly sharing the pictures he took and his thoughts with his friends via telephone.

"I told my friends how everything here is so nice and the journey is an eye-opener for me," he added.

The delegation also explored Xibe culture, tasted Xibe food and experienced archery at the Xibe Old Town in Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County of Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, northwest the autonomous region.

In addition, they visited Qapqal county newspaper office where the world's only newspaper in the Xibe language is published. The newspaper staff presented guests with freshly printed newspapers still carrying the scent of ink as a memento.

"I am very happy that the Chinese government and people have preserved the cultural traditions and living styles of ethnic minorities and I believe this is one factor that contributes so much to the unity of all ethnic groups in China," said Nur Rachmat Yuliantoro, chair of department of international relations at Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia.

The delegation also set foot on the Kazanqi folk tourism area in the ancient city of Ili where Eid al-Fitr, an official holiday of Islam marking the end of the month-long fasting of Ramadan, was celebrated.

A dance was performed at the entrance of the tourist area to welcome the distinguished guests and celebrate the festival. Tourists and people of all ethnic groups also joined in the performances, singing and dancing.

The delegation also visited homes of local residents and were received with tea, snacks and other special foods.

Chafic Choucair, researcher at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies in Qatar, suggested China devote more resources to tell Xinjiang's stories well.

"The trip is beyond my expectations. Actually, it is amazing. We do not see the real Xinjiang abroad. China needs to talk more than before about it," he said.

Mehmet Ugur Ekinci, scholar of Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research in Turkey, said the Xinjiang tour was enlightening as he learned many things from officials and ordinary people.

"Obviously, when I go back to Turkey, I will study China more," he added.

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