2014年11月11日 星期二

Lop Nor Xinjiang . Different peoples. Same problems .

I met Connie in Ghana and it was she who told me about her trip to Lop Nor the year before . “ How was it ?” “ Incredible hell !” She shuddered. “ OK, I must go then !”

In Uyghur, 'Lop' means a place having a vast expanse of water. In Mongolian, 'Nor' refers to a lake. 'Lop' and 'Nor' together means a vast lake . It is located at the east end of the Tarim Basin of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China . There was a time this was the second largest inland salt lake in China and an important station on the Silk Road. Marco Polo rested here before his year long trek across the Gobi Desert. Unfortunately due to the diversion of rivers by dams and excessive water usage up steam the lake was totally dried up by 1972. Today it’s a vast expanse of desert and wind-eroded massif, covering an area of some 3,100 square kilometers (1,200 square miles) right in “the heart of the heart “ of Asia. The Lop Nor lake bed is covered with a hard salt crust thickly sprinkled with fine gravel.
A local Uyghur legend explains Lop Nor :  Once upon a time there was a handsome Prince who left his throne to learn singing and dancing , but crossing the Tarim Desert he lost his way . He would have died from hunger and thirst but for the daughter of the Wind God, who rescued him and they fell in love . The Wind God was furious and He blinded the Prince and broke His daughter’s legs, then blew them apart one to the east and the other to the west end of the desert, so that they could never see each other again. The daughter’s hair turned white overnight, and her tears gathered and formed a beautiful lake, bright as pearl. Later the daughter became sick from missing her Prince, and when she died the lake dried up, and the ground was covered by a silvery gravel, which was her white hair.
For over 1,000 years the savage landscape and climate rendered Lop Nor off bound. It has variously been called the Forbidden Zone to Life ; No Man’s Land; the Sea of Death and China’s Bermuda Triangle. Monk Xuan Zang wrote in the Tales of the Triple-Text Master in ‘Great Loving-Kindness Temple’ that : “ there are no flying birds, beasts or float grass. At night there are many monsters and mysterious fires. The wind sweeps the stones, like the heavy rain . White bones are seen anywhere ” . After the New China, the first to venture in were the army to make military maps and surveyors to prospect for minerals.
We were 16 people in 4 jeeps and a truck , 4 of the 5 drivers, though unrelated, were surnamed Lee; they were conveniently re- named Tall Lee, Small Lee, Old Lee and Fat Lee, according to their respective distinguishing feature. My driver was Fat Lee, who claimed to be a businessman in real life, he’s only here masquerading as a driver to help out his friend Old Lee, who couldn’t find an experienced driver for love or money. “ I’m not getting paid at all , “ he said “ I’m only doing this for the adventure.” Fat Lee was one of China’s nouveau riche, and looked the part with his jaunty white hat , dark suit and patent leather shoes, while all the other drivers were in sports jacket , baseball cap and sneakers. He oozed confidence, and like many of his generation, he was onto his third marriage.
“ What’s wrong with the first wife ?” I asked .” She cheated me ! ” he cried indignantly, “ She told me she could bear me children but she turned out to be barren !” “ Was the second wife also barren ?” “ No, but she only gave me a daughter !” The daughter’s now thirteen and lived with her mother. “ We split up because she refused to have any more children. She has her own business and has no time for babies !” He’s since found a 20+ year old who’d no objection to being a baby factory. “ So why aren’t you home with your new wife then ?”I rolled my eyes heavenwards. “Well, she’s kind of boring . I’m actually glad to take this short break away from her “Fat Lee grinned gleefully and stamped his foot on the accelerator. Ordinarily I’d have slapped the label “ Obnoxious Man !!!” on Fat Lee’s forehead and shunned him like the plague, but in this case I put up with him because I wanted him to take me with him to Afghanistan on one of his business trips. Wartime and post war rebuilding are golden opportunities to make money for the daredevils , and Afghanistan’s in desperate need of everything that Fat Lee could bring across from China. “ Is it safe to go to Afghanistan ?” I asked “ No ! Every time I go I’d have to contact the General, he sends a platoon of soldiers to accompany me everywhere I go. ”

To get to Lop Nor we passed through the Tian Shan Mountain range which was at the northern border of lop Nor. On route to the Tian Pond we had a run-in with a group of visitors from Shantung, on account of some of them tried to jump the queue while we were waiting for the cable-car. This was by far one of the most common reasons for altercation between mainlanders and Hong Kongers, fortunately no actual physical blows were exchanged, though it was touch and go at one point . Of course this was long before the Occupy Central Umbrella Revolution, otherwise the moral outrage would not just be laughable, but outright hypocritical, as the Umbrella Revolution has exposed Hong Kongers (some) to be far more disrespectful of law and order and other people’s rights than any mainlander could ever be.

We stopped at Turpan to pick up the huge amount of provisions, the food and water had to last the whole trip. Turpan’s famous for its grapes and we visited a local shop said to have some of the best raisins. We were treated to a Uyghur song and dance by a couple of teenage performers. I fell into conversation with the boy, he was gloriously gay and dreamt of going to San Francisco. “ Good God No !” I stared at his delicate little face in alarm. “ They’ll eat you alive over there !” “ I can take care of myself ” he said with all the exuberant confidence of a 15 year old. I sighed, what else could a gay Uyghur do but run ?
Just a little digression here on this issue : The first irony is homosexuality had always been regarded as a normal facet of life in China until the influence of Western cultures, which led to its being relegated to moral deviant from 1840 onwards. Certainly homosexuality was banned in the People’s Republic of China until it was legalized in 1997. In 2001, homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental illnesses in China, giving gay Hans high hopes of liberalization and recognition, but their Uyghur comrades are not as lucky. The oppression is solely from religion and family as Islam considers homosexuality a sin. The second irony is the Uyghur were not always Muslims, the hodgepodge of Turkic peoples who made up the modern day Uyghur were initially devout Buddhists following the lead of the Mongols and Tibetans. Only since 934 AD that mass conversion to Islam began. Even then the rules were lax, it’s well recorded that the Ming Emperor Zhengde had a homosexual relationship with a Uyghur Muslim leader from Hami, named Sayyid Husain. Imagine how good life would be today for the poor Uyghur gays if only their ancestors had stayed Buddhists, that is if the number of gay monks in Vietnam and Thailand’s anything to go by !

We arrived at the Flaming Mountains in late afternoon, and the view was spectacular. The Flaming Mountains’ to the east of Turpan and right at the rim of the Taklamakan Desert. Gullies and trenches caused by erosion of the red sandstone bedrock give the Mountain the illusion of being on fire in the setting sun. This is reputed to be the hottest spot in China, in summer the temperature frequently reaches 50°C or higher. There’s a lovely mythology associated with the Mountains, written by the Ming Dynasty writer, Wu Cheng’en, called "Journey to the West". According to the story, Monk Xuan Zang, , accompanied by a Monkey King with magical powers, traveled to India in 627 BC for the Buddhist scriptures. The Monkey King was rebellious and made trouble in the Heavens, during which he knocked over a kiln, the embers fell from the sky and formed the Flaming Mountains. The Uyghur have their own legend about the Mountains too, which goes like this : a dragon used to live in the Tianshan Mountains, and it loved eating small children. A Uyghur hero slew the dragon and cut it into eight pieces, which became the eight valleys of the  Flaming Mountains, while the dragon’s blood colored the mountains red .
As we inched our way into Lop Nor, we stopped frequently to ask directions. During one of these stops I got talking with a Uyghur family and rested awhile in their tent. Tall Lee was deeply unhappy  “ You may think I’m being paranoid, but you can’t be too careful with these people, stay away from them ! You don’t live here so you won’t understand ” he frowned. Then he told me a story that made me deeply unhappy. “ One time I was driving in the country with my mate and we got lost, it was getting dark and we were cold and hungry. Just then we spotted a lone farm house, but the owner was Uyghur. We had no choice but to go in, the guy was friendly enough and gave us some drinks, me and my mate looked at each other and neither of us dared to take the drink until the Uyghur took a sip from the same bottle . Who knows what could be in the drinks ?!” He laughed at the memory but I just wanted to cry. Tall Lee was born and breed in Xinjiang, his parents were sent to Xinjiang as part of their re-education program in the 1950s and they never repatriated. I was sad that two peoples living side by side all their lives could have so little trust in each other. Tall Lee had no interest at all in Uyghur culture, their habits or their language, it’s as though the Xinjiang Hans and the Uyghur live in parallel universes. The situation was to dramatically deteriorate in July 2009 when a few days’ riot in Urumqi shredded what little goodwill there was between the two peoples. The official tally of the riots was 197 dead and 1721 injured, but Old Lee told me in 2012 during my second visit to Xinjiang that the dead and injured was well over 10,000, most of them Han Chinese. This time round the atmosphere was tense, the fear and hatred was palpable, and there seems to be demarcated Han and Uyghur district – no Han taxi would take me to the Grand Bazaar in the Uyghur district, whereas back in 2007 I could freely roam the Bazaar and the surrounding streets.
Much blame has been put on the rapid economic development kick- started in the 1980s in Xinjiang , which attracted hordes of Han Chinese to settle there. Because Hans have the necessary language and work skills, they’ve generally done well, and the widening income disparity between the Hans and the Uyghur has led to much hard feelings. Undoubtedly this is one of the factors, but like the Occupy Central Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong , there’re many layers of intrigue to the story. I always maintain any problem can be resolved somehow within a family if there’s no outsider interference, because nobody in their right mind want to wreck their own home, but once foreign powers are involved then the outcome’s invariably bad, which stands to reason because why should outsiders care if you’re left homeless ?  Global Research of Canada was among the first to point out the suspicious timing of the Urumqi riots, just days after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Yakaterinburg in Russia, with President Ahmadinejad of Iran as official observer guest.

For the uninitiated Shanghai Cooperation Organization ( SCO) was formed in 2001 in response to what was seen as an increasingly hostile and incalculable United States foreign policy, as well as to enhance effective cooperation in economic as well as security issues of the member nations, which are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Since then formal Observer status within SCO has been given to Iran, Pakistan, India and Mongolia. SCO meet every year, each member nation plays host for the meeting in a rotating order. I had the misfortune to be in Tajikistan the same time the SCO meeting was held there, most of the roads were blocked for security reasons, and it took us hours to get into Dushanbe, the capital city ; by the time we reached our lodging it was well past midnight !
Central Asia has always been in the Russian sphere of influence, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, for the first time US established military bases in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The strategic geopolitical importance of Xinjiang makes it the main target for destabilization in China by Washington. Xinjiang borders among others Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s in Washington’s interest to weaken the growing cohesion of the SCO, which it perceives as an expansion of Chinese influence in Central Asia, and what better way than to create havoc in Xinjiang and kill two birds with one stone, by simultaneously strangling China’s energy supply as China’s Eurasian Energy Infrastructure of oil and gas pipeline routes from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and eastern Siberia, all traverse directly through Xinjiang province. If Obama’s Pacific Plan of blocking all China’s oil transport sea routes should succeed, Xinjiang would be the main life line of energy into China.
All this is done openly by the US Government’s ”independent“ NGO, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is directly funded by the US Congress. The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) based in Washington D.C., receives $215,000.00 annually from NED; with the US money the WUC manages to finance a staff and a very fancy website in English. WUC was formed in 2004 and is now headed by Rebiya Kadeer, a businesswoman and mother of eleven children (Hans can only have one child ! ), who was exiled to the United States in 2005. In 2004 NED gave US$75,000 to the Uyghur American Association ( UAA) , the first time a grant was given to a Uyghur exile group. Since then UAA has further received $280,000; the International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation $187,918 and the International Uyghur PEN Club $45,000T. All these organizations are charged with the task of instigating separatist/ terrorist incidents in Xinjiang. NED subsidiaries include Freedom House, The National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI) headed currently by US senator John McCain. East Turkestan Islamic Movement ( ETIM) was branded as a terrorist organization by the United Nation in 2002, since then the US has distanced itself . NED also supports the Tibetans in exile . Now America has opened another front - the Occupy Central Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong received huge “ donations” from sources closely linked with NED, and tasked with the same political subversion. Pan-democratic camp legislative councilor Cyd Ho Sau Lan said it all when she gushed on a radio program that : “OC protestors in Admiralty are all proud of living in a state of anarchy”. Furthermore, Pro-Western “ democratic” political activists in Hong Kong who opening seek to overthrow the Communist Government in China are confirmed to have received monetary rewards from the US.
Hong Kong is a chink in China’s armor, it’s the easiest target to destabilize because of its long association with the West, plus Hong Kong is one of the freest if not the most free city in the world. This is evidenced by the protracted occupation of the main commercial districts of Hong Kong and the unbelievable tolerance of the HK Police. Can you imagine the same thing happening in Time Square New York , or Trafalgar Square London, for weeks on end ?!  The speculation is that Washington has been laying down groundwork to promote “democracy” within the then British colony since 1984, when hand-over talks began between Britain and China . This endeavor intensified after the 1989 Tiananmen Crackdown. Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, said in an interview for Washington Post in 1991: "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."( read my article on Cyprus and you’d know what he means ) Washington’s regime change hit list is almost endless : from the “ Mafia State” Kosovo to Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Teheran, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan……….now it’s China’s turn. The most common  tactic is to usher in a supposedly “spontaneous popular uprising” ( the US State Department has now admitted to backing of opposition fronts in the “spontaneous “ Arab Spring uprisings ; while in HK, NED is financially and sociopolitically linked to each and every prominent Umbrella Revolution leader ; plus all 3 student leaders are either US citizens or about to be given US passport ; the agenda, the parroting verbatim talking points and slogans had apparently been scripted in Washington months earlier ), utilizing Gene Sharp’s “nonviolent revolution rules”, always using Democracy as a banner, to pitch and blow-up conflict between the populace ( unfortunately there’re malcontents in EVERY society) within the target country and subsequently to carve out territories. Then a puppet government is installed, a permanent U.S. military base established, and Voilà ! a new vassal state of the United States is born !
In HK the aim of the Umbrella Revolution is to change the candidate selection method so as to ensure a Pan-democratic camp politician who’s friendly to the US could be inserted into the post of Chief Executive of Hong Kong. A representative from the US Council on Foreign Relations literally proclaimed that ‘hopefully the ongoing movement in HK would “infect” mainland China’. The strategy is to bombard China from the far West, far East and within, not forgetting the String of Pearls from the sea (Those interested might want to read my article on Sri Lanka). One can’t help wondering : Would the US allow a candidate, backed by Russian money, whose sole agenda is to overthrow the US President and the US political system, be allowed to be elected into office ? If not in the US then why would they think it’s perfectly OK to do this to China ?! The Umbrella Revolution is a rude awakening for a lot of HK people - parents are shocked to discover Methodist schools teach kindergarten toddlers to hate the HK Police ; University Professors are found to instruct their students to break the law and feed them warped logic ( I kidnap your son to get ransom, I kill him because you refuse to pay. It’s all your fault now your son’s dead because you don’t pay. In fact I’m a Saint for killing your son because I do it with Love and Peace ! ); religious leaders accept Black Money to instigate social unrest ; lawyers urge protesters to deliberately flout court injunctions to clear the streets ; medical doctors advocate doing harm is justified for political causes ………… Overnight I don’t recognize any of the people I thought I knew. I’m among the fraction of HK people who still believe in Human Compassion, Righteousness, Kindness, Consideration, Integrity, Justice, Fairness, Decency, Respect, Courtesy , Responsibility, Honor, Empathy, Selflessness, Wholesomeness, Graciousness, Loyalty, Dignity, Truthfulness, Humor, Good-cheer, Goodwill…….. all the basic qualities expected of a civilized individual, besides genuine Brotherly Love and Peace which conduce to Benevolence and Concern, not the kind hoisted by leaders of the Umbrella Revolution to maim and hurt . I’m one medical doctor who refuses to believe there exists in the world any cause that’d justify a doctor to do harm deliberately. Certainly not for a cause as dirty as politics.
Those who think US sponsored Color Revolution will bring them Freedom and Democracy are morons ! When Egypt and Ukraine (like Cyprus years ago) voted in a government through democratic election but one that the US didn’t like, it’s toppled instantly. Both countries are still in chaos, and Cyprus had been split into two countries. The Umbrella Revolution has shown the World HK people do not have the necessary qualities for Democracy : there’re no tolerance, no compromise, and no respect for the Law. There’re however a lot of selfishness, extremism, tyranny of the few, then of course the quintessential Chinese self-centeredness - the phrase one hears the most on the street is : “ He/the group doesn’t represent me !”. This is where “ a bowl of loose sand “ in describing Chinese came from : each for his/her own. Respect for Law and Order is a cornerstone for any Democracy to work, but in HK it’s utterly destroyed by the very people who claim to be fighting for Democracy. A lot of the speakers of the Umbrella Revolution lure supporters by promising them more welfare, better prospects. Anyone with half a brain would wonder with the economy ruined where would the welfare money come from? The central theme of Democracy HK style is simple : grab as big a slice of the pie as possible for oneself, full stop. Nobody asks where the pie came from or how one could put back into the pie. Most of the people blocking the streets have never paid taxes in their life. The students have not contributed an iota to HK and now they’re tearing it down, exactly like the Red Guards in Cultural Revolution. The students might not admit to be Chinese ( survey result) but their behavior is pure Chinese ! I’d lived for many years in the West and know for a fact Democracy isn’t a Panacea for all social ills. Just take a look at Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Portugal, England.......... Western democratic countries on the brink of bankruptcy through corruption and mismanagement, all now looking to China for a bailout.

Fat Lee was livid when the president of Uyghur American Association was mentioned. “ Son of a bitch!” he made as if to spit. “ I went to school with that bastard ! He was always a slime ball and ne'er-do-well! Now he’s done rich for himself by sucking up to the Americans. “ Personally I love all the minority tribes in China, all 56 of them. I think China is richer, more colorful and more vibrant because of them. The dominant Hans must accept that the minority tribes are all Chinese Nationals equal to themselves in all aspects of entitlement and opportunities as citizens of China. Nobody should be looked down on because they’ve different habits, culture or language, that’s the only way we can all live together. Even in today’s Xinjiang, most Uyghur, like most Hong Kong people, would rather stay out of politics and conflicts and get on with life.                                    
 Suddenly we’re already at Lop Nor. Less than 200 visitors come here in a whole year as the area was still not open to tourism in 2007. “ But aren’t we tourists ? How’s that we can come here ?” I asked Tall Lee. “ But you’re not here as a tourist” he said” You’re now officially a member of an Exploration Expedition on a research mission, I’ve applied for a special permit for each of you in Urumqi.” While I contemplated my newly bought status of explorer, I was startled by the squawking of chickens. Old Lee laughed at the expression on my face and explained “ We don’t want to go a week without meat.  Last year we brought a sheep but it died quickly, so this time we bring chickens because they’re easier to take care of “  He’s let the chickens out for a breather because of the heat. The Lop Desert summer’s boiling hot with air temperature as high as 70°C , and so dry shoes change shape after leaving them out overnight . A story circulates for years about police dogs in search parties that walk on 3 legs because the ground’s too hot. The windy season’s from Feb to June, with gale every 3-5 days, the wind-blown sand particles act like a sand blast in the terrifying sand storms, the resulting abrasion of the rocks forms the yardangs and the gigantic dunes . The yardangs are separated by parallel gullies or wind furrows 6-20 feet deep, all sculptured in the direction of the prevailing northeast to souhwest wind . Basically one can only visit Lop Nor from May to October, even then in the daytime the surface temperature could be above 40°C, while at night, below 0°C.
On the way in we passed many fallen polar. The cutting of Poplar forests and Tamarix shrubs for firewood that used to be extensively distributed along the lower Tarim River Valley ( the so-called 'Green Corridor') was another reason of the desertification of Lop Nor. Polar to the Uyghur is the most beautiful tree, its shade’s a natural shelter and resting place for livestock. It grows fast and can stand salt water well. Chinese mythology claims a Polar tree can live for a thousand years, it won’t die even after 20 years of drought but will mummify. When it does die it would remain standing for 1000 years, when it eventually fall down it would not rot for 1000 years. 

Lop Nor is called No Man’s Land because the extreme weather and ever moving sand dunes have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. We were lectured on the importance of not wandering off and get ourselves lost as mobile phones are completely useless here (we have Global Positioning System in the truck but not satellite phones). Old Lee told us the horror story about a Japanese tourist who got lost, helicopters and search parties were sent out at a cost of half a million dollars, none of it covered by insurance. Incredibly, one member of our team did exactly what she’s told not to and promptly got herself lost the next morning wandering off by herself ! She wasted us a whole morning searching for her, she was lucky because many others were never found. 
The most famous missing person in Lop Nor was the prominent chemist and geologist Peng Jiamu. On his 4th expedition into Lop Nor, Peng left camp in the morning of June 17, 1980 when his team was running out of water and petrol, leaving a note saying “ I have gone to find water”. There was speculation Peng set out for the location of a well marked on a map drawn in the 1940s. More than 100 rescuers searched the whole area where Peng could have walked, but his body was never found, and his disappearance remains a mystery. In May 1981, Xinjiang Science Academy erected a memorial plague where he disappeared.

One of the most famous dead in Lop Nor was the Chinese explorer Yu Chun Shun . He died on the 13th June 1996, trying to walk across Lop Nor. His body was found naked in the Gobi at a spot that was within 20 minutes’ walk of a water source that had already been prepared. Forensic examination determined he had died of thirst 5 days prior to discovery. Rumor was he was found lying with his head pointing towards Shanghai, on account of his being Shanghainese ! A  grave stone was put up where he was found. 
Lop Nor is called China’s Bermuda Triangle because of many weird happenings. Of these, the more interesting ones are : In 1949 a plane from Chongqing Sichuan going to Urumqi disappeared in the sky, years later in 1958 it was discovered in Lop Nor, all aboard were dead. It was inexplicable because the plane should have flown northwest, but instead it went south to land in Lop Nor. In 1950 a PLA police disappeared, 30 years later his body was found by a geologist team over a 100 km from where he went missing . In 1995 three Milan farm workers in a jeep disappeared. Explorers later found 2 bodies 17 miles from Lolam, reason of death uncertain. Surprisingly their jeep was in good condition, water and petrol full. The third person’s never found. In 1990 seven people from Hami went to Lop Nor in a van to look for crystal minerals, and never returned. Two years later, three dried up bodies were found at the bottom of a slope, the vehicle was 30 miles away but the remaining four persons were never found .

In 1998 Feb Chinese New Year time, the first ever female Exploration Team of 26 ladies from Guǎngdōng Shěng followed Yu’s foot-steps to reach the center of the Lop Nor lake, in commemoration of Yu. They put down a wooden stick at the point determined to be the center by engineering measurement in 1997. Now it’s a site for travelers to leave mementos .
One principal reason Lop Nor was closed to the world for so many years was that it was at one time China’s nuclear testing site. Here’s a little trip down memory lane.

Mao decided to develop China's first nuclear bomb in January 1955. Lop Nor was selected as the Nuclear Test Base because of its remoteness and distance from the US and Taiwanese airbases in the Pacific. Even then U-2 spy planes from Taiwan were caught flying at high altitude to take pictures of the Lop Nor nuclear installations. The surveillance never stopped. Lop Nor was nicknamed Big Ear because of a Satellite picture published in an American academic magazine in the 1980s. The ear-shaped depression is the Lop Nor dried basin of the former Lop Nor Sea. The “circle line” or “ helix line” came from salt shells formed as the lake water dried up in various periods.
The Lop Nor Nuclear Test Base was set up in June 1959 with the help of the Soviets . The first Chinese nuclear bomb test was code-named "596", after the month and year the program began. Two years later Russia and China fell out, and Soviet Bomb experts were pulled out of China, but not before shredding all important documents, blueprints and plans. Mao pressed ahead with the project even though much of China was starving as a result of the Great Leap Forward. In October 1961 President J F Kennedy issued a directive for the US to attack China's nascent nuclear program before it developed a bomb. He was worried that armed with nuclear bomb, China would swallow up Southeast Asia. The Sino-Soviet split in 1961 was seen as the perfect opportunity for a joint US-Soviet operation. On July 14, 1963, an American emissary in Moscow brought the proposal to the Soviets. For whatever reason Nikita Khrushchev declined participation. 
In the meantime the feud between Moscow and Beijing escalated. In 1961 Soviet Army had amassed army, aircraft and medium-range missiles along the 4,380 km frontier with China, especially at the Xinjiang border where Turkic separatists were entrusted with insurrection. The PLA was then militarily inferior to the Soviet Army, political border tensions metamorphosed into military clashes on Zhenbao Island (Damansky in Russian) on the Ussuri River, Heilongjiang . Massive civil defense underground shelters were built in a panic in response to the Soviet nuclear threat, and resulted in 100 underground hotels with 10,000 rooms, and miles of underground tunnels in China’s northeast . Against all odds, with the barest of essentials and the prospect of imminent nuclear apocalypse hanging over their heads, the Chinese scientists knuckled down and raced against time. By mid-September 1964, CIA noted that the Chinese had completed the work at the testing site at Lop Nor. On Oct. 15, 1964, CIA's assistant director for scientific intelligence made a report : "We believe a test will occur sometime within the next six to eight months." He was wrong. China conducted the test the next day. 

October 16, 1964 . 

President Johnson was in the middle of an urgent White House meeting to discuss the Soviet Union, where earlier that day Khrushchev had been ousted from power, when aides brought in word that the Chinese had done it. With the Test, China became the fifth nuclear power. Johnson went blank for a second, then said : “ This is the blackest and most tragic day for the free world”
Millions of Chinese did not agree. The Nuclear Test was a spectacular triumph for a nation of peasants. Thousands of scientist who helped bring it about ran out on the steppe of the Tibetan-Qinhai Plateau, shouting and shedding tears of joy. The test was the result of enormous investment in money, materials and technology for a people still struggling to recover from nearly 20 years of war, and just then reeling from man-made famine and destitution. An undisputed testimony of the tenacity and fortitude of the Chinese character in the face of hardship and want. The success of the atomic bomb was to be a game changer for China in the International Political Arena. For once, Mao did right by China.

On 20 August 1969, the Soviet ambassador in Washington told Secretary of state Henry Kissinger of their plans of nuclear attack on China, and asked the US to remain neutral in the event. Nixon however, considered the Soviet Union as his bigger threat and wanted a strong China against it ; besides he was fearful of the effect of a nuclear war on the 250,000 US troops stationed in the Asia-Pacific . So the White House leaked the story to The Washington Post, which splashed in its August 28 edition the entire Soviet plan of launching missiles with hundreds of tons of nuclear material on Beijing, Changchun, Anshan and its missile-launch centers of Jinquan , Xichang and Lop Nor. Kissinger further warned the Soviet ambassador that in the event the Soviets set off their first missile against China, the US will launch nuclear missiles at 130 Soviet cities. As history was to unfold, the Nixon Administration was then already in the early stages of its own rapprochement with China. This episode was the closest China has come to a nuclear war.
Nothing is too strange in love or politics, of the five nuclear threats ever made on China, the other four actually came from the US ! The first one was during the Korean War, the other three were over Taiwan. Twice planes in Guam were loaded with nuclear weapons and put on standby, ready to drop the bombs on Xiamen airport. These bombs were of the same order as those dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.

On 17 June, 1967, China exploded its first hydrogen bomb - a uranium-enriched device weighting 3,410 pounds. Only 32 months and 6 test blasts separated China’s first atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb, in contrast Britain took 66 months, Soviet Union took 77 months , the US took 75 months and 31 tests, and France took 103 months. Despite what the West might assert, and Green Peace sending a ship up the Yangtze River to protest against nuclear weapon tests, China actually didn’t conduct so many : As of 1995, the US conducted 1,030 nuclear tests, Russia 715, France 209, Britain 45, and China 43, India 1. Pakistan detonated its first nuclear bomb in 1998, after much help from China. On 29 July 1996, China conducted its 45th and final nuclear test at Lop Nor. The China nuclear policy is simple : a no-first-use nuclear doctrine, nuclear weapons are solely retaliatory if China is being attacked. 
On a sidebar, the world was concerned enough about radiation pollution that in 1963, the foreign ministers of the United States, the USSR, and the United Kingdom met in Moscow to sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) outlawing nuclear testing in the atmosphere, under water, and in space. Fifty years later the Archive was recently declassified and exposed the awful truth that the US and Soviet had in fact continued to conduct underground testing producing radioactive gases and particles which crossed international borders, in clear violation of the LTBT. A US State Department document recorded  that both superpowers agreed to keep each other’s secret by a tacit “ gentleman’s agreement against publicizing venting incidents”. US proved to be even the more sneaky of the two, in 1972 the Pentagon used the excuse of monitoring France’s atmospheric tests in the Pacific (labeled NICE DOG), openly collected data on nuclear weapons effects and tantamount to "participation" alongside France. The objection of the US State Department officials of such “ monitoring “was overruled by Henry Kissinger.
The aftermath of nuclear tests in Lop Nor lingered. Malan, the nuclear base, is only 10 kilometers from the nearest villages. There had been reports of livestock and people suffering from radiation sickness : hair loss, skin disease, increased rate of leukemia, throat cancer, premature births and deformed babies. In 2007 compensations were dispensed to the victims. In 2012, China announced plans to spend $1 million to clean up the Malan nuclear base to create a red tourism site .

We were very lucky to run into some 2 humped camels. The wild Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus) are an endangered species, and more precious than panda. It’s estimated there’re only a total of 800-900 in the world, mostly in Xinjiang and Mongolia. Wild and domestic camels have 1.9% DNA difference (man and chimpanzee have 1.6% DNA difference), suggesting 80,000 years ago they were already 2 different animals. In 1999 a protection zone was established in the reed oases on the northern edge of the Lop Nor desert , in 2003 it was promoted to be a National Nature Biodiversity Conservation Sanctuary in order to preserve Bactrian camels and other wildlife in the region.
Natural vegetation is sparse in Lop Nor, a scientific expedition from 1979-1982 collected only 36 species of plants. The expedition also found only 127 species of animals (23 mammals, 91 birds, 7 reptiles and 1 amphibian ) but surprisingly 70 species of insect. The most interesting finding was micro-organisms which had made special biological and physiological adaptations to extreme environment, and could stand a high salt habitat.
We arrived at an archaeological site in the middle of nowhere and decided to pitch camp and celebrate Mid- Autumn Festival there. Not a moment too soon because tempers were on short fuse. All the drivers were somewhat  pissed off with Tall Lee. Old Lee was blunt with it “ The cheap bastard ! I told him the truck’s no good on sand but he won’t listen ! With him it’s always just about the bottom line. How much more money would it take to hire a couple more jeeps to carry the provisions instead of the truck ? Then of course he has to hire more drivers. “ Almost from the first day we entered Lop Nor the truck had been in trouble, digging up the wheels and giving the truck a good shove to get it going had become a regular exercise. But during the last day even the jeeps were in trouble, consequently we were all a bit exhausted .

The archaeological site was normally manned by one person, presumably also in the interest of saving money. The young Uyghur care-taker was taken aback by our large party and radioed 2 of his friends from another site to help with the cooking. He wanted to make us noodles from scratch, and it was not a good day for chickens, as one was caught and slaughtered to make soup. The area was sparsely settled by Uyghur, other Turkic peoples and Tajiks. “ How long have you been stationed here ?” I watched the Uyghur work with the dough in the bedroom/sitting room/kitchen. The real cooking would be done on the stove in open air.“ Two years, and I can’t wait to get out “he said. He was still single, and his parents’ home was almost a whole day’s bus journey away. “ What do you do all day by yourself ?” “ Nothing ! There’s absolutely nothing to do here “ Not quite, the hillocks of  empty beer bottles said otherwise. But I felt for him, sometimes it’d be weeks before he’d see another living being. “ I’m so bored! But it’s a job, and it’s so difficult to find jobs in these parts.” I had no idea what it was he was guarding, the site looked pretty defunct.

Mid- Autumn Festival was not celebrated as such in Xinjiang, so the girls decided to have some fun with Tall Lee. They told him for the trip to go smoothly it’s customary for the leader to kneel and kowtow to the Moon Goddess 3 times, then pray for the blessing . Tall Lee was happy to oblige as his crew’s getting restless. His worry was needless because while the food’s being prepared the drivers relaxed in a game of cards, hence by the evening everyone’s rested and in a good mood. We had a big feast, including moon-cakes which someone had the foresight to bring along , followed by Uyghur song and dance, which everyone joined in, even grumpy Old Lee. 

The next day we took more pictures with the young Uyghur caretaker, who was most sorry to see us go. I promised to send him all the pictures we took, which I did but I never knew if he got them.
The next stop was Milan Ancient City, located in the southern part of Lop Nor. It was an ancient oasis town on the Silk Road which started in Xi'an, capital of the Western Han Dynasty, and ended in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD ). Milan was once a thriving center of Buddhism with many temples, pagodas and stupas scattered all over the area, and the Milan fort was a Tibetan settlement during the 8th and 9th centuries AD. Monk Xuan Zang , China's most famous monk, was said to have once taught the Buddhism doctrines here on his way back from the West Heaven. Milan was gradually abandoned after the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) due to war and worsening environmental conditions. 
A new debate sprang up among our group whether we should visit the Museum and Milan Ancient City proper, as  we’d have to pay admission fee of several thousand dollars per head. “ Not worth the money,” all the Lees were in agreement.” there’s nothing much to see inside “. Which was not entirely untrue, as from 1906- 1907 the British-Hungarian explorer Aurel Stein conducted two excavations in Milan and stole a large number of precious cultural artifacts and relics of statues and frescos, including the famous one winged angel. Both Chinese and foreign archaeologists believe the angel murals were a result of Roman influence, and dated back some 2,000 years. 
In the end we decided not to venture in, and explored the surrounding ruins instead. Ken our HK guide spotted an old acquaintance. “ Mrs Fan,” he called after a woman passer-by,” How are you ? How’s your husband ?” “ Her husband was my driver when I was here 2 years ago” Ken said to me in a whisper. To his consternation the woman burst into tears and would not be consoled, the little girl at her side joined in promptly. After a great deal of coaxing she finally let out her husband’s been killed in a motor accident not so long ago. Mrs Fan’s trying to run her husband’s car hire “business” (only one car, now minus the driver), so times were tough. I gave her a few hundred dollars and took some pictures of her little girl. I sent the photos back to her together with a big furry toy and a set of children’s toothbrush and toothpaste. The little girl’s teeth were atrocious ! This is exactly why I get really irate when tourists give local children candies for treats, in most of the less developed places dental service is a luxury, and sweets are the devil to give to kids ! 
Development was in the air for Lop Nor since the discovery of Potash , now a large scale mining operation’s put into place. It’s estimated that the potassium salts reserve in Lop Nor amounts to 500 million tons and valued at 500 billion yuan. Potash’s needed for fertilizer and other industrial uses, at present China imports at least 4 million tons of potassium fertilizer every year. A railway was installed in November 2012 to transport the salts to Lanzhou. The Tarim Basin’s also believed to contain large reserves of petroleum and natural gas, 70% of the natural gas reserve being methane.

We went on the Lop Nor to Hami highway and was hit by a sand storm. Luckily it blew itself out in a few hours , but it was ferocious and nerve racking while it lasted. My friend Connie encountered a bad sand storm while still inside Lop Nor which lasted a whole night, I could only imagine how frightening it must have been. We cleaned up in Hami after a week without bathing then flew back to Urumqi. I noted billboard signs everywhere warning people about drug addiction and AIDS. Apparently there’s an HIV/AIDS boom in Xinjiang Province, mainly due to intravenous drug use - nearly one in three injecting drug users in Urumqi are infected, and most of them are Uyghur.

The problems in Xinjiang are multitudinous and complicated, much like those in Hong Kong. In both places are people who truly hate the Chinese Communist Government, to the point of irrationality. They, together with some elements from Taiwan and the USA , vow to bring down the Chinese Government at all cost. My family had suffered greatly at the hand of the Communist, yet I would still concede that but for China’s rising , the likes of Martin Lee and all the leaders of the Umbrella Revolution would still be no more than the scorned “Chink Chonk Chinaman” to the West that they’re so eager to ingratiate. The Chinese Communist had done great harm to its people during its 65 year reign, yet economists the world over agree that China had raised more number of people above the poverty line in 30 years than any country in the whole history of mankind, a feat they also agree could never be repeated in the whole history of mankind. What is the cost of ousting the Chinese Communist now, today ? There’s no other political party in the wings to take over, the only alternative party large enough and well organized enough that I can think of is Falun Gong , but I doubt that Li HongZhi could do the job of Xi JinPing . Xinjiang and Tibet would go and become satellite states of the US, the armies in various provinces would rise up and China would disintegrate . One quarter of the world’s population would be stateless.

The Umbrella Revolution has shown up how badly HK students are educated. They’ve been greatly failed by their teachers and professors, of whom many, judging by their words and actions, are uneducated themselves. I teach my students the indicators of being educated is concern for other’s wellbeing and not just one’s own, never do harm, take responsibility, respect other’s rights, and win people over only by sound reasoning. Brute force win you nothing, to study is to learn Reason. If the professors and their students think by taking a bow and say “ Oops, Sorry !” and that’d make things square after ruining people’s lives, they’re by definition uneducated. If to them people are nothing but collateral damages then they’re less than human. To incite the students/citizens to opening break the Law of the Land amounts to insurrection. It’s plain to see some students are brain-washed by the West on Militant Democracy in the exact same way the ISIS is brain washing Western youths on Militant Islam. It’s a sorry state of affairs when grown men who should know better willingly allow themselves be led by a 17 year old who’s legally not trusted to buy a car or start a family. I tell my students primary school kids can only see a leaf, secondary students can probably see a tree, university students must be able to see the forest, postgraduates have to look down at the forest and up to the sky. They must be able to see the big picture, as everything interacts and intertwines with everything else, nothing happens in isolation - particularly in politics, nothing is as it appears on the surface. HK politics is never just about HK . Interestingly many university students I talk to have no inkling what The HK Federation of Students is about , so the Federation must represent only an ultra- minuscule % of the HK population ! 
The Umbrella Revolution has also shown up how modern revolution’s won - in the media. Most of the HK media is as biased as their Western counterpart, by selectively reporting only what’s flattering to the protestors. In HK today nobody dares tell the young reporters to give a more balanced reporting for they’d scream : “White Terror! ” A friend of mine, a kindly old lady, was stopped in the street by a reporter for her view of HK, but when she started to praise HK the reporter just turned her back and walked off ! My friend was indignant “ Apparently if you don’t bash HK they don’t want your interview !” Fortunately we in HK can still get the true picture of The Umbrella Revolution via YouTube and the internet - all the deceit, violence and ugliness in technic-color, but so many others are misled. The only positive outcome is the horrendous destructiveness of the Umbrella Revolution has brought forth an avalanche of extremely good articles from many deep thinking , erudite scholars from HK and abroad, much to my own edification .   
The most important confirmation the Umbrella Revolution has shown up is the ineptitude of the Pan-Democratic camp politicians. They’ve shown themselves to be entirely devoid of intelligence (even common sense) , have zero leadership quality and zero morality. They hold double standards for everything - one set of lenient rule for themselves and one set of strict rule for the rest of mankind, and naturally they’re above the law ! They’re only good at filibuster and destructive criticisms, never constructive advice or cooperation. Their dictum is every wrong is either the government’s or someone else’s fault, if you can’t win an argument by reasoning you just shout the other person down ( dictum the students have adopted in a flash !) or throw something at the person, and rudeness and foul language is hip ! And all the pain and disruption of the Umbrella Revolution is to ensure these degenerates should rule HK !? Really, people,seriously ? Revolution and Destruction are easy, good Governance and Build-ups are hard ! Does anyone really believe HK will do well if a Pan Dem is the CE ? 
HK has been sliding downhill since elections were introduced . Not surprising as politicians are all liars, bottom-feeders and scum. It comes with the job. My friend Tony, a law professor, had an idea. All politicians should be banned from the CE post of HK . Instead a management technocrat ( the best that money could buy and HK has the money ) should be appointed, like a company director. All the stakeholders of HK society would be like share-holders, all expected to contribute, not just to reap rewards. Couldn't be any worse than what we have now !