Traveled there this June on the way to Tajikistan. Planned 6-7 days, but made it in 4. Why? Because of all those things mentioned above. After 33 hours on the train Beijing-Turpan, arrived there 4am. Waited for the sunrise and started my hitching. The plan was to go to Bostan lake to swim, so hitchhiked all the way there, but cops started following me after the highway exit. They didn't allow me to go to the lake so i continued toward Korla direction. Cops called each other all the time to coordinate my moves!!! So 20km before Korla is the archeological park called Qigexing temple (Buddhist remnants, 4th century). The cops bothered me again for 20min, one even was sent to keep an eye on me all the time! He was with me inside even. After that, he actually helped me to find a ride to Korla pay toll (he forced the Uyghur taxi driver to take me there for free.
After that I hitched additional 300km to Kuqa and the nice chinese family took me to the 5 star hotel with them that night.
Next day we went to the Tianshan Grand Canyon and after that I visited other historical places alone. The old town was packed with cops and checkpoints, you must enter and exit via Xray scanner! Got a train that night to the place called Maralbashi (Bachu). From there, hitched again to Yarkand and Zepu, where visited Poplar tree Jinhuyang scenic area. A Chinese guy who gave me a ride was repeating that the president is the best person on Earth. I responded with: You are good person, you are helping me. No, he said, Xi is good, not me.
Said. Then, I entered the nightmare while trying to visit Jinhuyang. Cops were literally everywhere! They were following me all the time, asking me billions of questions. Finally I managed to get their help (after 3 hours of investigation and "sightseeing") and they took me to the next checkpoint, Yarkand city checkpoint. Two new comrades took me there and guess what? They didn't allow me at all to visit the city! "Some safe activities" and other b...ts were mentioned. I said I just want to go to the city center to take a photo of the mosque and square. No way! It's impossible as the city is "closed that day for foreigners". After tough negotiation they offered me a ride to the mosque, but no photos. So you lie that no foreigners can go to the city? No answer. I didn't want to talk to them anymore after that. Just got a ride to the train station ans their eyes where on me until I didn't leave the city.