A Han Chinese Student on the Urumqi Violence of Summer 2009

On China Beat, Timothy Weston follows up with an interview he did last year with a Han student who grew up in Urumqi, to discuss his return home this summer just after the July 5 riots:

TW: That night did you and your Uighur friends talk about what had happened in Urumqi over the last few days? If so, what did you all say? What did you learn from them that you did not know?

Leong: Yes, we did talk about it and we had the TV news on for the first hour or so, watching all the interviews and journalists reporting on the riots. We discussed all the details my friends knew, including some horrible details about the killings. At that moment each of us naturally spoke on behalf of our own ethnic groups – it felt inevitable that I would speak as a Han and they as Uighurs. It became clear that my friends, like most Urumqi Uighurs, deplored the loss of innocent Han lives but also deplored the loss of innocent Uighur lives when Han vigilantes sought revenge a few days later. But we all agreed that the Uighur instigators were harming all Uighurs. My friends emphasized again and again that the killers did not represent all Uighurs and that they themselves, like Han people, want peaceful lives. None of my friends witnessed the violence firsthand but each said they had relatives or friends who did, and who helped save Han people. After an hour or so of this kind of talk we all felt overwhelmed and didn’t want to talk about it anymore, so we ordered food and drink and then played cards.

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