Guest Blog by Jesta
News from China is very much on my mind at the moment. The Olympics started with a huge song and dance and a Singapore swimmer came within an ace of winning the first Olympic medal for decades, the Singapore table-tennis team have just secured at least a silver medal and the coverage dominates the front page of the Straits Times every day.
However, Olympic glory is pushed to one side as I search for the headlines that read “Renewed Violence in West China” (BBC Online 14/08/2008). As I write this I’m reading about how more people have been killed in a stabbing attack by presumed Uighur Muslim separatists/terrorists. The latest attack comes after a string of attacks launched since the Olympics began, and they are all in Xin Jiang – the province that is just about to become my first experience of China.
The practical side of me says that things are not going to be too bad – I went to Northern Ireland in the midst of the “Troubles” and I regularly cross the road without dying (something that is more likely to cause you death and injury than terrorists). On the other hand in Urumqi (the main city) where we will be I’m guessing that I will stand out from the crowd and it’s not unknown for terrorists to target westerners to get more attention.
An email from the Operation Smile (known from now on as OS) co-coordinator reads: “Ulumqi is safe. However, travel outside of Ulumqi for sightseeing is not advisable due to the security concerns.” So, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to see other than the hotel and the hospital.
Actually, though, my main concern was that my wife didn’t read the papers and put two and two together. Until yesterday she hadn’t appeared to have done so, but unfortunately someone mentioned it to her yesterday and now the cat is out of the bag. I really don’t want her to worry, so I’ll have to spend some time on Skype and SMS to reassure her.
(Just a note about names in the rest of this journal: Jesta is, of course, a pseudonym, and other people who feature will be referred to by their initials. This is not for reasons of secrecy, but simply because it is better to be more private than less).