CHINA: Deep ethnic divide widens after riots in Xinjiang

The crowd, estimated by a journalist to be at least 10,000-strong, converged on central Urumqi with many carrying poles, chains, machetes and bats.
Police fired tear gas repeatedly at the protesters but they refused to disperse, according to the reporter.
Police were blocking them from getting through to an area of Urumqi populated by Muslim Uighurs, whom authorities have blamed for riots on July 5 that left 156 people dead and more than a thousand injured in some of the deadliest ethnic unrest in China for decades.
Urumqi is the capital of China’s remote northwestern region of Xinjiang.
“The Uighurs came to our area to smash things; now we are going to their area to beat them”, said one protester, who was carrying a metal pipe.
Some of the Han Chinese protesters were carrying national flags, while many were chanting “safeguard the people” and “unity”, in reference to national unity.
The state-run Xinhua news agency indicated there were similar scenes in other parts of Urumqi.
“Chaos was seen in a number of places in Urumqi on Tuesday afternoon”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Disturbances were also reported in the town of Kashgar, near the frontier with the Central Asian republic of Kyrgystan.
The Xinjiang region has long experienced simmering ethnic tensions, with the eight million Uighurs complaining about the influx of Han Chinese immigrants into what they regard as their homeland, as well as political and cultural repression.
Uighur and Han Chinese residents expressed shock at the savagery of the attacks, in which people from both sides said Uighurs targetted Han-owned businesses and hunted down Han motorists and pedestrians in mob attacks.
But that’s just about where their agreement ends.
Many Han Chinese expressed puzzlement at the complaints by many of Xinjiang’s roughly eight million Uighurs, who still comprise the majority in the region.
These include charges of political, cultural and religious persecution, and complaints of Han moving into Xinjiang and dominating economic and political life. “China is bringing economic development. That’s good for everyone”, one woman protested.
But for some Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people of Central Asian culture, the unrest was an inevitable outpouring against what they call repression by the Han-dominated government in Beijing.
“There has been violence like this before and it will happen again if things do not change”, said a Uighur shop owner named Anwar who proudly offered to show a reporter spots where he said Han were bludgeoned or hacked to death with machetes.
“This is supposed to be the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region”, he said, using the region’s official name but rejecting the implication of self-government by Uighurs.
“The Han control everything. The Uighurs are always mistreated by the Han”.


Uighur women clashing with Chinese riot police in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, on July 7. The violence claimed at least 156 lives

Thousands of ethnic Han Chinese protesters armed with makeshift weapons marched through Urumqi (Urumchi), last Tuesday vowing revenge after ethnic unrest claimed 156 lives, observers said.


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