As Muslim Uighurs rampaged through the streets of this western provincial capital on Sunday, Zhang Aiying rushed home and stashed her fruit cart away, safe from the mob. But there was no sign of her son, who ventured out amid the ruckus to retrieve another of the family’s carts.
“Call him on his cellphone,” Ms. Zhang, 46, recalled shouting to another relative. “Tell him we want him home. We don’t need him to go back.”
Her son, Lu Huakun, did not answer the call. Three hours later, after the screaming and pleading had died down, Ms. Zhang went in search of him. A dozen bodies were strewn about. She found her son, his head covered with blood, his left arm nearly severed into three pieces.
The killing of Mr. Lu, 25, was a ruinous end to the journey of a family that had fled their poor farming village in central China more than a decade ago to forge a new life here in China’s remote desert region.
Mr. Lu and his parents are typical of the many Han migrants who, at the encouragement of the Chinese government, have settled among the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking race that is the largest ethnic group in oil-rich Xinjiang Province. The influx of Han, the dominant ethnic group in China, has transformed Xinjiang: the percentage of Han in the population was 40 percent in 2000, up from 6 percent in 1949.
“We wanted to do business,” Lu Sifeng, 47, the father, said Tuesday, his eyes glistening with tears as he sat smoking on his bed. “There was a calling by the government to develop the west. This place would be nothing without the Han.”