Three people have been killed and more than 20 injured in violence in the city of Urumqi in China’s restive Xinjiang region, state media says.
Xinhua news agency said police had rushed to the city to restore order after demonstrators attacked passers-by and set fire to vehicles.
Xinhua did not say how many people were involved or what their motive was.
But activists and eyewitnesses said that those involved in the unrest were minority Muslim Uighurs.
A report from the Los Angeles Times gives more details:
The official New China News Agency said rioters were “attacking passersby and setting fire to vehicles,” but representatives for the Uighurs, a Muslim minority, described a peaceful demonstration that turned ugly because of government brutality.
Witnesses reported that riot police arrived on the scene in armored personnel carriers, dispersing the crowd with water cannons and tear gas, and firing warning shots into the air. At least 300 people were reported to be arrested. There were unconfirmed reports of deaths and injuries.
[…] The protests today were triggered by the June 26 killing of two young Uighur men at a toy factory in Guangdong province. According to Uighur sources, the men were beaten to death by a mob, enraged by false rumors that they had sexually harassed Han women.
Initial investigation showed the unrest was masterminded by the World Uyghur Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer.
“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 move came after a conflict between Uygur and Han ethnic people in a toy factory in the southern Guangdong province in June 26, which led to the death of two Uygur workers.
Some comments from Chinese twitterers:
“No matter where I am, I think the most beautiful place on earth is my hometown, Urumqi. I can never forget the mountains, rivers, grasslands and trees, and the people. I will always belong to that place. All the ethnic groups co-existing in harmony, is this really an unreachable dream? God bless the kindhearted citizens. Sleepless nights.”
“Although I lived in Xinjiang since I was little, I also have felt a sense of Han superiority, and this sense of superiority may have made me discriminate against Uighurs and other minorities. Originally I wasn’t even aware of this until I saw these types of violent ethnic conflicts, and then I discovered the narrowness of my own thinking, and became aware of the true significance of ‘ethnic autonomy.'”
Read what people are saying about this topic on twitter.
Also from Chinese blogger Yang Jie 杨杰:
About two hours ago, I drove by the People’s Square of Urumqi. (The square’s importance for Xinjiang is equivalent to the importance of Tiananmen Square for Beijing.) I coincidentally ran into the sudden riot. I saw hundreds (maybe almost a thousand) people gathered here marching, in an organized way. All participants were Uighurs. Some of them were shouting slogans in Chinese, and some in Uighur. They attracted a large crowd. Judging from their half-baked Chinese, they were probably not Uighurs from Urumqi, since Uighurs in the regional capital Urumqi usually speak fluent Chinese. The north of the Square is where the Party Committee of Xinjiang is, and the southeast side of the Square is where the provincial government building is. This is the heart of the city. It is also a popular place for residents of all ethnicities living nearby to spend their time in the evening. On summer nights the square is always very crowded. In the center of the Square, the monument of the People’s Liberation Army Entering XInjiang (also called the Monument of the Peaceful Liberation of Xinjiang) stands tall. The monument is similar to the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
And from blogger Li Puman (李普曼):
I saw news online about riots in Urumqi, and read some of our Han Chinese opinions. Many comments support the use of force to crack down. And for the Uighurs in Urumqi, no doubt their target all pointed to Han Chinese and their properties.
Under the surface of rapid economic development, the conflict between ethnic nationalities is so severe. We are full of hatred and mistrust. We are killing each other, using violence against violence. We have become people who do not forgive and who do not want to reconcile.
Or, is it the government who has never thought about reconciliation, and therefore many people have given up the hope of reconciliation?
[Photos from freemorenews]
Listen to a statement by Nur Bekri, Chairman of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, linking the riot today to the Shaoguan brawl, and blaming Rebiya Kadeer and others for using the Internet to stir up anger among Uighurs. ‘
The clashes on Sunday began when the police confronted a protest march held by Uighurs to demand a full government investigation of an ethnic brawl between Uighur and Han workers that erupted in Guangdong Province overnight on June 25 and June 26. The brawl took place in a toy factory and left 2 Uighurs dead and 116 people injured. The police later arrested a bitter ex-employee of the factory who had ignited the fight by starting a rumor that 6 Uighur men had raped 2 Han women at the work site, Xinhua reported.
There was also a rumor going around on Sunday in Urumqi that a Han man had killed a Uighur earlier that day in the city, said Adam Grode, an English teacher living in the neighborhood where the rioting took place.
“This is just crazy,” Mr. Grode said by telephone Sunday night. “There was a lot of tear gas in the streets, and I almost couldn’t get back to my apartment. There’s a huge police presence.”
See also from Forbes, “Uighur Unrest: Will Xinjiang become another Tibet in 2009?” and a report from The Times.