THINK OF A vast area, inhabited by a small population of deeply religious people, and occupied by the Chinese, who despise the local culture and crush dissent. Tibet, surely. Could be - but this much-needed book is about Xinjiang, the far-western 'Semi-autonomous Region' which the Chinese have tried to subdue for over two thousand years. It comprises about one sixth of the area of modern China, with a population, mostly Muslim, that makes up one-sixtieth of the national total.
In some ways the Chinese encounter with Xinjiang does resemble the endemic crisis with Tibet. The intense local nationalism is defined by religion, whlch China has attempted since the 1949 Communist victory to stamp out together with the local language. In the face of all evidence Beijing insists that Xinjiang