The Guardian

'Every place you go, you are being watched': reporting from Xi's China

The Guardian’s outgoing Beijing correspondent reflects on six years of increasing repression
Xi Jinping. ‘The political climate has soured dramatically with his rise.’ Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

“You don’t work out, do you?” inquired one of the officers who had summoned me to my hotel lobby in China’s pre-eminent police state. We had only checked in 10 minutes earlier and, after an exhausting week reporting along Xinjiang’s spectacular high-altitude border with Pakistan, I was desperate for a hot shower and a snooze.

But “Mike” and his partner “Max” – two Uighur police officers tasked with thwarting even the slightest hint of hostile foreign journalism in this ever more repressive region of western China – were insistent.

Could I pop down for a chat?

Over afternoon tea in the lobby of Kashgar’s Radisson Blu, we pondered my spindly, gym-deprived physique and Mike’s love of

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