Two shot dead in renewed unrest in China’s Xinjiang
By David Gray
Monday, July 13, 2009 8:19 AM
URUMQI, China (Reuters) – Chinese police shot dead two people on Monday in renewed unrest in the far northwestern region of Xinjiang, state media said, after at least 184 people died in riots last week.
The official Xinhua news agency said the two people killed in the regional capital Urumqi were Uighur. Police were trying to stop them attacking another Uighur when the security forces opened fire, the report said. Another Uighur was injured.
“An initial investigation found that the three people were attacking the fourth person with clubs and knives at 2:55 p.m. near the People’s Hospital at Jiefang Nanlu,” Xinhua said. “Police on patrol fired warning shots before shooting at the three suspects.”
Of the official death toll from the July 5 riots, 137 were Han Chinese, who form the majority of China’s 1.3 billion population, and 46 were Uighur, a Muslim people native to Xinjiang and culturally tied to Central Asia and Turkey.
Uighurs attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi that day after police tried to break up a protest against fatal attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China. Han Chinese in Urumqi launched revenge attacks later in the week.
Zhou Yongkang, China’s top security official, said that while the situation was improving, the government could not rest on its laurels.
“Currently, various instability factors still exist and the task of maintaining stability is arduous,” he was quoted as saying in Urumqi.
“The importance and urgency in ensuring Xinjiang social order should be fully learned, and the fight against separatism and terrorism in the region is a long-term and acute task.”
State media said earlier in the day that demonstrations against Chinese consulates in Europe and the United States showed that ethnic riots were orchestrated.
Demonstrators threw eggs, Molotov cocktails and stones at several Chinese embassies and consulates, including in Ankara, Oslo, Munich and the Netherlands, Xinhua said.
“Supporters of the East Turkestan separatists started well-orchestrated and sometimes violent attacks on Chinese embassies and consulates in several countries soon after the riots occurred,” Xinhua said, referring to name given to their desert homeland by some Uighurs.
“The attacks against China’s diplomatic missions and the Urumqi riots seemed to be well-organized.”
While security forces blanketed the city, more and more businesses are reopening.
“In general, things are slowly getting back to normal. I think the situation is getting better and under control,” said one Han resident. But some Uighur residents remained wary.
A Uighur security guard, who declined to give his name, said that while he did not support the violence, he understood people’s frustration.
“Look around you — 90 percent of all the businesses are owned by the Han,” he said, standing in Urumqi’s main bazaar.
“All I can do is get a job as a security guard,” complained the university graduate. “The Han here can’t even speak Uighur.”
Beijing cannot afford to lose its grip on Xinjiang, a vast desert territory that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, has abundant oil reserves and is China’s largest natural gas-producing region.
In another sign the government is not going to relax its grip in Urumqi anytime soon, Xinhua said police will take in for questioning anyone who cannot produce an identity card or driving license.
People are also banned from “shouting slogans, posting banners, distributing leaflets or gathering for lectures in city streets or public venues,” the report cited a police notice as saying.
“Police will immediately disperse gatherings and confiscate the propaganda materials and take away key members for interrogation according to law,” Xinhua added.
(Additional reporting by Tyra Dempster, and Lucy Hornby and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie)