"I will tell my friends about what I see in Xinjiang" -- French tourist

Source: Xinhua [15:55 July 13 2009]

When Michel Dupond and his French tour party arrived at Xinjiang Urumqi airport Sunday, he was told they were among only a few travel groups from overseas that had not cancelled their schedules.

One week before their landing, a riot broke out in this capital city of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 5, leaving 184 people dead and more than 1,600 others injured.

The region's tourism industry was hit immediately as travel agencies cancelled or postponed Xinjiang-bound tours.

"Only foreign business people and reporters have been coming in and I saw more rush out of the region these days for safety reasons," said Qi Xi, a travel agent who works at the airport.

"My manager called me last evening and asked me to guide this French tour group," said Liu Xiaoping, "this is my first job this week." This local tour guide said most of his colleagues were "just staying at home".

"No one stopped us from coming here, and I had no reason recalling our decision," said Dupond, who has visited China several times. Two days before leaving for China from France, Dupond sent an email to his Chinese colleague asking whether it was okay to visit Xinjiang at this moment.

"He said yes, so we packed luggage and came," said Dupond. His friends thought he must be "crazy" when they learned about his decision.

It has been getting normal on the streets except for special policemen standing at some major crossroads. Shops and restaurants are restarting business and vendors are preparing for the night bazaar. But tension remains and the "wound might need a long time to heal," Liu Xiaoping said.

Liu took the group to Xinjiang Museum where he was busy answering questions from the tourists about dresses, hats, printed wall hangings, wooden spoons, bookstands and mummies unearthed in the region.

"Is it possible for us to eat roasted eggplant for dinner, I'm now hungry, to be honest," asked Cardin, a plant virologist.

All people laughed. Their lunch not only included eggplants but also a variety of meats and vegetables as well as Xinjiang's hami melon and local red wine.

"I love it to be here," said Dupond, "The modern museum, and nice people, the nice food, and almost everything, which are good."

"Of course I saw groups of special policemen on the street, that makes me feel nothing but safer," said Cardin, saying that he "made a wise decision in coming at this moment".

"I believe China can handle it, and I know it needs time to heal the wounds," said Cardin.

"If you want to ask me about what had happened in Xinjiang, I would like to tell you my idea. I think the riot had been enticed by forces outside," said Dupond, "and you know this kind of things also happened in some other countries.

"We are looking forward to sightseeing in Kashgar, and I will share my stories with friends back home and let them know I'm not crazy," said Dupond.