What Really Happened on July 5?
Two weeks after a violent clash between Uighurs and Han Chinese took the lives of almost 200 people in Urumqi, two opposing narratives have been put forth to explain the violence. Via Xinhua, the Chinese government claims it has evidence the riots were premeditated and organized:
Yet in retrospect, a mass of of evidences show that the unrest was a well-planned violent criminal incident of terrorist nature. The weapons used were prepared beforehand, and division of tasks among the misdoers were clear.
According to the public security department, these misdoers were mostly from outside Urumqi, and several leaders among them wore similar clothes.
The weapons used during the riots were mostly stones, bricks, wood and iron clubs, as well as some knives and guns. Some businessmen in the city told reporters that knives became hot selling products two or three days before the unrest.
[…] Security department also found that the licence number of the vehicles used by thugs had the same tail number. According to experts, these numbers might relate to “hitting head”, since most of the victims in the riots were attacked on their heads.
In the days leading up to July 5, an unknown person or persons posted on the forums of China-based websites an appeal to Uyghurs in Urumchi to peacefully protest the Chinese government’s mishandling of multiple killings of Uyghurs by Han Chinese at a toy factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong province. The forum post surprisingly remained online, which is contrary to the known behavior of Chinese government censors.
On July 5, Uyghurs, mostly young men and women, some of whom carried the flag of the People’s Republic of China, assembled and marched peacefully in Urumchi toward People’s Square. They asked for justice for the victims in Shaoguan and expressed sympathy with the families of those killed and injured. They also demanded to meet with government officials but none came out to meet with them.
As the protest was public knowledge, the protestors were met en route by a show of force, including four kinds of Chinese police- regular police; anti-riot police; special police and People’s Armed Police. The police surrounded the protestors and tensions between police and protestors grew. According to an eyewitness caller to our offices, the protestors were incited by plain clothes agents to respond to the police presence. As tensions became heated, police started beating, kicking, and arresting protestors. Then, under the cover of darkness, Chinese security forces began to fire[v] upon Uyghur protestors.
Read also a Los Angeles Times story on the government claims.