156 dead, over 1,400 arrested in riot-hit Chinese city (Third Lead)July 7th, 2009 - 7:15 pm ICT by IANS
Urumqi (China), July 7 (Xinhua/IANS) One of the worst outbreaks of ethnic violence in China raged here Tuesday with thousands from the country’s majority Han community taking to the streets with knives as the death toll in two days of violence rose to 156.
The authorities decided to impose curfew in Urumqi city in Xinjiang province, and the police swept through the region and arrested 1,434 people in a desperate bid to contain the mayhem.
News reports said the latest exhibition of aggression came from members of the Han community, who are outnumbered by ethnic mainly Muslim Uighurs in the region that shares winding borders with Russia and Central Asian countries.
The dead include 129 men and 27 women, Xinhua quoted Communist Party of China official Li Yi as saying. Those who have been arrested include 55 women. Li said the police were interrogating the suspects.
The riots broke out Sunday evening between Uighurs and the Han community.
On Tuesday, several thousand protesters marched along Youhao Street and Guangming Street toward Erdaoqiao Road in downtown Urumqi. Mostly Han Chinese, they shouted: “Protecting our home, protect our family members.”
Police personnel armed with guns and shields were on guard at various points.
Many of the Hans gathered at the Urumqi South Railway Station, Changjiang Road, Yangzijiang Road and some other places. People ran in panic and roadside shops were shut down. Some took shelter in a hospital.
“We will not hide any more. We will fight back if they (the rioters) come,” said a man standing in front of a building.
A man coughing up blood and another man whose head was covered in blood were rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment.
The regional hospital of traditional Chinese medicine received three Han Chinese with fresh wounds on their bodies in the afternoon, said the president of the hospital.
To contain the rapidly-spreading violence, curfew will be imposed in Urumqi Tuesday night, said Wang Lequan, secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Committee of the Communist party. “Some Han people took to streets in Urmuqi disrupting social order,” he said.
Uighurs are the majority ethnic group in Xinjiang, making up about half of the 20 million population. Tensions have mounted in recent times between Uighurs and the Han Chinese.
Besides 156 deaths, the rioting has left over 1,000 injured. The authorities have sent over 20,000 armed police, special police, firefighters and troops to quell the violence.
The Sunday unrest followed the death of two Uighur workers in a brawl in a toy factory in Guangdong province June 26.
The rioters smashed or set ablaze several vehicles, shops and public properties during the two days of violence, which the provincial government said was masterminded by the World Uighur Congress, a banned Muslim separatist group.
The outfit is led by Rebiya Kadeer, a former businesswoman, who was detained in 1999 on charges of harming national security. She was released on bail in March 2005 to seek medical treatment in the US.
“The violence is a pre-empted and organised crime. It is instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country,” a government statement said early Monday.
Following the growing unrest, Internet connectivity was cut in parts of Urumqi.
“We cut Internet connection in some areas of Urumqi in order to prevent violence from spreading to other places,” said Li Zhi, the Communist Party of China (CPC) chief of Urumqi.
Li said Chinese authorities had evidence that World Uighur Congress leader Rebiya Kadeer used the Internet and other means of communication to mastermind the riot.
He didn’t say when connectivity would be resumed.
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