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Widespread Violence in Urumqi

At least three Han Chinese were allegedly killed and many others injured in widespread violence directed against the Han Chinese in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province of China, on July 5,2009.

2. Over 1000 Muslims (some estimates put the number at 3000) came out into the streets in different parts of the city and attacked the security forces, Han passers-by and shops owned by Hans.

3. The demonstrations and the resulting violence were triggered off by reports about the death of two Uighurs at the hands of their Han Chinese co-workers at the Xuri toy factory in Guangdong on June 25,2009. A large number of Uighurs work in the factory and live in a separate dormitory. A report circulated through the Internet alleged that some Uighur workers had raped two Han Chinese women working in the factory. Some enraged Han workers attacked the dormitory. In the resulting clashes, two Uighur workers were killed and 118 persons—Uighurs and Han Chinese—were injured. The local Chinese authorities brought the situation under control and arrested a Han Chinese worker for circulating through the Internet a false report about the alleged rape. This brought the tension down.

4. As the news of the incident reached Urumqi there was widespread anger over the death of the two Uighurs at the hands of Han Chinese in Guangdong. Even before the Guangdong incident, there was considerable anger in Xinjiang over preventive arrests being made by the authorities of the local office of the Ministry of Public Security since April to prevent any violent incidents coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China which falls in October and the occupation of Xinjiang by the People’s Liberation Army.

5. There has also been anger over the execution of two Uighurs in April last in Kashgar city for what China called a “terrorist” attack last August there aimed at sabotaging the Beijing Olympics. According to the Chinese authorities, 17 policemen were killed in that incident. Fears have been expressed by the local Uighurs that the 10 Uighurs handed over by Pakistan to China in June on the ground that they belonged to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement might meet with a similar fate.

6. There has been a recrudescence of jihadi violence in Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and the Xinjiang provice of China since the beginning of this year. While local grievances of the Uighurs are believed to be responsible for the fresh wave of unrest in Xinjiang, the revival of pro-Taliban activities in Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan has come in the wake of attempts by the US to find alternate routes for the movement of logistic supplies to their troops in Afghanistan through Russia and the Central Asian Republics. Following frequent attacks by the Pakistani Taliban on convoys carrying logistic supplies passing through the Pashtun areas, the US has embarked on an exercise to find alternate routes.

7. Reliable sources say that Al Qaeda has been encouraging the Uzbeks, the Uighurs and the Chechens to unite to foil this US exercise and to target the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s joint operations against terrorism.

8. The Chinese authorities have accused the World Uighur Congress and other West-based Uighur exile organisations of instigating the fresh violence in Xinjiang by disseminating exaggerated accounts of the Guangdong incident. Fearing retaliatory attacks on the Chinese working in Pakistan by local Uighurs, they have requested the Pakistani Ministry of the Interior to step up security for the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad and for the Chinese nationals working in Pakistan.

9.Annexed is the text of a report on the situation in Urumqi disseminated by the State-controlled Xinhua news agency on the morning of July 6,2009. ( 6-7-09)

(The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:


Xinhua Report Disseminated on the morning of July 6, 2009

URUMQI: The unrest in Urumqi, capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, has led to the death of “a number of civilians and one armed police officer” on Sunday, sources with the regional government said early Monday.

Some ordinary people and armed police officers were also injured during the unrest, while many motor vehicles and shops were smashed and burned, the sources said.

The situation is under control now, it added.

Previous government report said that three ordinary people of the Han ethnic group were killed in the incident as of 11 pm Sunday, in addition to 20 others injured.

Initial investigation showed the unrest was masterminded by the World Uyghur Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer, according to the regional government.

“The unrest is a preempted, organized violent crime. It is instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country,” a government statement said early Monday.

According to the government, the World Uyghur Congress has recently been instigating an unrest via the Internet among other means, calling on the outlaws “to be braver” and “to do something big.”

Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang regional government, said in a televised speech Monday morning that the movement came after a conflict between Uygur and Han ethnic people in a toy factory in the southern Guangdong province on June 26.

Two Uygur workers were killed during the factory brawl, which was triggered by a sex assault by a Uygur worker toward a Han female worker. A total of 120 others of both Han and Uygur ethnic groups were injured.

Nur Bekri said the brawl was used by some overseas opposition forces to instigate Sunday’s unrest and undermine the ethnic unity and social stability in the autonomous region, with an aim to split the country.

“We should bear in mind that stability is to the greatest interest of all people in China, including the people in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region,” he said.

He blamed the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism for making use of the event to sabotage the country, adding that their attempts are doomed to fail.

Meanwhile, the Urumqi municipal government issued an urgent notice early Monday morning, announcing traffic control in certain areas to “maintain social order in the city and guarantee the execution of duty by state organs.”

“From 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. on July 6, police impose traffic control in certain areas in the city of Urumqi. Passage in these areas is not allowed for any vehicle,” the notice reads.

“All the units and individuals shall voluntarily help maintain social order as required by this notice. People who violate the notice will be detained and punished by police according to law. Those whose acts constitute a crime shall be subject to criminal liabilities according to law,” says the notice.

So far the government has not disclosed how many people were involved in Sunday’s unrest, only said they illegally gathered and protested in several downtown places at about 7 p.m. Sunday and engaged in beating, smashing, looting and burning.

The government has arrested some rioters, althouth the exact number of people arrested was still not available.

This year marks the region’s 60th anniversary of peaceful liberation. But during the annual “two session” in March this year, Nur Bekri warned the security situation in the region would be “more severe”.

“It’s a time of celebration for Xinjiang people but hostile forces will not give up such an opportunity to sabotage,” said the official.

The far western autonomous region is home to more than 10.96 million of ethnic minority people, including Uygur, Mongolian and Hui.

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