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When the local government in Xinjiang province dispatched more than 800 Uighur workers to a toy factory here in May, they couldn’t have predicted their fate would blow up into a national crisis. Today, police say two of the Uighur workers were killed and scores more injured in the June 26 events that ignited a firestorm of protest in restive Xinjiang. More mysteriously, some 700 of the original Uighur workers of Shaoguan’s massive electronic toy factory are being held out of sight behind locked gates roughly 10 miles away in an abandoned factory. Their plight, and the lack of quick police action on the initial murders, sparked mass protests and killings on July 5 in the Urumqi, adding the latest cracks in China’s façade of ethnic harmony.
“The Uighurs are like wild men,” said Li Xiaoming, a factory worker from Sichuan province. “They carry knives and steal things, they never do what the bosses tell them.” His comment is par for the course among Han Chinese factory workers and locals across the manufacturing region. Most Han migrant workers in these parts, with little exposure to the outside world themselves, appear to have deep-rooted bias about Uighurs and what they might do. They appreciate the Uighurs’ dancing and food, but don’t trust them. “I think it’s possible they raped a girl,” said one factory worker outside an Internet café. “They made people nervous. They didn’t speak Chinese.”
Read the full article on the Far Eastern Economics Review.