Friday, August 7, 2009

Urumqi Locked Down, Expat Exodus to Gilgit

Gilgi, August 6: The massive security presence in Urumqi and Kashgar has apparently affected local businesses so much that many are being forced to close, unable to generate custom or meet overheads. These include some of the small number of foreign-invested businesses that have set up in Xinjiang over the past few years.
Clients and friends of Dezan Shira & Associates who have invested in the region are reporting still enforced clampdowns on access to email, the internet and regular communication with the outside world. Travel into and out of the region has also been severely affected. Things have gotten so bad that we are now receiving reports of expatriates having to travel via the Karakorum Highway by bus to Gilgit in Northern Pakistan in order to access email and inform their families that they are safe.
Gilgit is the provincial capital of Pakistan’s Northern Areas. From there it is relatively easy to travel onto Islamabad and connect with international flights and the Pakistani national rail service. It seems this route out of Xinjiang is now being used by many to leave the region.
The atmosphere in Urumqi from business owners we are in contact with there has been described as “suffocating” with many now choosing to write off investments as an adventure and leave this troubled region.
The journey from Urumqi to Gilgit takes about four days by bus, crossing the border with Pakistan at Taxkorgan. A 120 kilometer bus journey through the demilitarized zone sees travelers arrive at Hunza. The journey to Gilgit takes another 12 hours.
We understand this route out of Xinjiang is being taken by increasing numbers of the expatriate community in Xinjiang. Commercial flight services from Urumqi and Kashgar have largely been suspended and the regular train service from Urumqi to Kashgar and onwards to Almaty in Kazakhstan has also been curtailed.

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