Monday, July 06, 2009

Scores killed in China protests!

Eyewitnesses said that Uighurs attacked passers-by and set fire to vehicles

Violence in China's restive western region of Xinjiang has left at least 140 people dead and more than 800 people injured, state media say.

Several hundred people have also been arrested after the violence erupted in the city of Urumqi on Sunday.

Xinhua news agency said police restored order after demonstrators attacked passers-by and set fire to vehicles.

The protest was reportedly prompted by a deadly fight between Uighurs and Han Chinese in southern China last month.

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Shanghai says that if the numbers of dead are to be believed - and state media say they may rise - this looks like the bloodiest suppression of protest in China since Tiananmen Square 20 years ago.

Uighur exiles said police had fired indiscriminately on a peaceful protest in Urumqi.

Map

The Xinjiang government blamed separatist Uighurs based abroad for orchestrating attacks on ethnic Han Chinese.

Eyewitnesses said the violence started on Sunday with a few hundred people, and grew to more than 1,000.

Xinhua says the protesters carried knives, bricks and batons, smashed cars and stores, and fought with security forces.

Wu Nong, news director for the Xinjiang government, said more than 260 vehicles were attacked and more than 200 shops and houses damaged.

An overnight curfew was imposed.

Uighur groups insisted a peaceful protest had become victim to state violence.

The Uighurs were reportedly angry over an ethnic clash last month in the city of Shaoguan in southern Guangdong province.

UIGHURS AND XINJIANG
Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
They make up about 8m of the 20m population
China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan
Since then, large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
Uighurs fear erosion of traditional culture
Sporadic violence since 1991

A man there was said to have posted a message on a local website claiming six boys from Xinjiang had "raped two innocent girls".

Police said the false claim sparked a vicious brawl between Han and Uighur ethnic groups at a factory. Two Uighurs were killed and 118 people were injured.

However, the Xinjiang government has blamed the latest unrest on businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer, the Uighurs' leader who is living in exile in the United States.

"An initial investigation showed the violence was masterminded by the separatist World Uighur Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer," the government said in a statement, according to Xinhua.

It said the violence had been "instigated and directed from abroad".

The vice-president of the US-based Uighur American Association, Alim Seytoff, condemned the "heavy-handed" actions of the security forces.

"We ask the international community to condemn China's killing of innocent Uighurs. This is a very dark day in the history of the Uighur people," he said.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in China says Xinjiang, a mainly Muslim area, has been a source of tension for many years.

Some of its Uighur population of about eight million, want to break away from China, and its majority Han Chinese population.

The authorities say police are securing order across the region and anyone creating a disturbance will be detained and punished.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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