The Han/Uyghur demographic trend in Xinjiang

For the past 10-20 years, following the change in economic activities and the apparent political integration and first hand experiences, people from Hong Kong I know seem to be a lot more knowledgeable about things in mainland China. However, prejudice might have largely gone now, ignorance is still widespread.

One example is that certain writer (aka toilet tissue head) who made his career by indiscriminately bashing the mainland grabbing any remotely related issue (people called this "piggybacking"/??) still find wide audience here. Another example is the ignorance of even some (according to his resume) British educated HK commentator.

This is a piece from Ming Pao today, from a "scholar/commentator" from Hong Kong. The author made argument like this, by comparing Xinjiang with Palestine. His "reasoning" is like this
I do think there are some many problems in China's "minority policy" in general, not just in Xinjiang, but Tibet and elsewhere, i.e., in general. I also agree with some of the suggestions the author made (eg more communication, learning their culture, etc. though these seem to have nothing to do with the Israel-Palestine lesson he brought out).

What surprised me is that both the Ming Pao editor and the author (presumably a postgraduate from SOAS London) failed to check the facts which are crucial to his argument, which is common knowledge for those who care to do a little web surfing or knows China's modern history a bit.

Since the Han immigration started (and sorted of completed) between 1960-1977, which was more than 10 years before the 1977 time point he quoted for his Israel example, and we all know that the unrest in Xinjiang started about 10 years after 1987. There is a more than 20 year gap in the author's reasoning. Since 1978 there had been large scale emigration of Han out of Xinjiang, though more "drifters" moved in since mid-1990s, it had not reached the 1978 level in terms of % and the troubled started by mid-1990 before the second wave of Han move-in (which is predominantly urban and non-government directly). His conclusion may be right, and perhaps his discussion on Palestine, but his simply took the wrong line of reasoning.

These facts are easy to check (e.g. a goolge search landed me here). But more importantly, anyone who is familiar with the modern history of China would know that everything in China changed in 1978, and would bother to check this if he is drawing comparison to whatever happened in China during these years.

Of course, I think many of their criticism on the mainland (and its government mainly) are valid and needed. But the line of argument they put forward are just laughable, and therefore, at best destructive.

Here is a chart for Han/Uyghur population as a % of total in Xinjiang from 1978-2006 (source), showing an initial decline (repatriation of the youth sent there during Mao era back to the cities such as Shanghai after 1978) and gradual rebound after 1990s (business opportunity pulled). I don't have the pre-1978 figures, but this should be enough to show that 1977-1978 was about the peak time since we know that people were sent there in the early to mid-1970s.

Han % in 1978: 41.6% , 1990: 37.6%, 2006: 39.3%.