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The Muslim Turkic people known as Uyghurs (pronounced "WEE-grs") are one of China's largest—and in the eyes of Beijing, most troublesome—minority groups. Uyghurs mostly live in northwest China's Xinjiang, an "autonomous region" that is one of the most tightly controlled parts of the country after Tibet. Uyghurs are descendants of nomadic Turkic Central Asian tribes. Their language, food, music, dance, clothing, and other customs have little or no relation to those found elsewhere in China. Yet despite a population of nearly 10 million people, most foreigners have never heard of them or their troubled independence movement. Protests and occasional violence in the region during the late 1990s brought a severe crackdown from Beijing; limits were placed on religious education and hundreds of suspected Uyghur separatists were executed. The attacks of September 11, 2001, gave the Chinese government further leverage to oppress Uyghurs in the name of fighting terrorism, and Xinjiang has been relatively quiet since 2009.
Primarily identifiable by their brimless white caps and headscarves, the Hui are ethnically Chinese Muslims. They are descendants of Middle Eastern traders who came to China via the Silk Road, settling down with a Chinese wives after their conversion to Islam. Over a thousand years' time, the Middle Eastern influence on the Hui appearance became diluted to the point where their facial features are now almost impossible to distinguish from those of Han Chinese. Yet because of cultural differences associated with their Islamic faith, Hui tend to associate with other Hui in largely Muslim neighborhoods. Hui reject eating several kinds of meat that are popular with Han Chinese, including pork, horse, dog, and several types of birds. In what could be seen as a form of respect by the business-savvy Han Chinese, Hui are also generally considered by the Han to be shrewd businesspeople, perhaps a vestige of their history as the descendants of foreign traders.
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