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China dismisses accusation of Xinjiang genocide

in.reuters.com

China dismisses accusation of Xinjiang genocide

BEIJING – july 14 – China on Tuesday dismissed Turkey’s accusation of genocide in its northwestern Muslim region of Xinjiang, where rioting killed 184 people, mostly majority Han Chinese.

In Xinjiang’s worst ethnic violence in decades, Uighurs on July 5 attacked Han in the regional capital Urumqi after police tried to break up a protest against fatal attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China.

Han Chinese launched revenge attacks two days later.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last week genocide was being committed in Xinjiang and called on Chinese authorities to intervene.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Tuesday the accusation of genocide simply did not make sense. Most people who died in the riots were Han and over the past few decades the Uighur population in Xinjiang had shot up, he said.

“In which country could this be called genocide?” Qin told a regular news briefing.

“We hope that our Muslim brothers can realise the truth of the July 5 incident in Urumqi. Once they know the truth, they would support our ethnic and religious policies and the measures the Chinese government has taken to deal with the incident.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his Turkish counterpart by telephone on Sunday the Urumqi riots were a grave crime orchestrated by the “three evil forces”, Xinhua news agency said, referring to extremism, separatism and terrorism.

In an editorial headlined “Don’t twist facts”, the English-language China Daily said the fact 137 of the 184 victims were Han “speaks volumes for the nature of the event”.

The death toll included 46 Uighurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia.

The newspaper urged Erdogan to “take back his remarks … which constitute interference in China’s internal affairs”.

Turkey has sought to boost ties with China, the world’s third-biggest economy. President Abdullah Gul last month became the first Turkish president to visit China in 15 years, signing $1.5 billion worth of trade deals, according to Turkish media.

Gul also visited Xinjiang during his trip.

Turkish nationalists see Xinjiang as the easternmost frontier of Turkic ethnicity. Thousands of Uighurs live in Turkey.

Xinjiang has long been a tightly controlled hotbed of ethnic tensions, fostered by an economic gap between Uighurs and Han, government controls on religion and culture and an influx of Han migrants. Uighurs make up almost half of Xinjiang’s 20 million people, but are a minority in the regional capital Urumqi.

More than 1,600 people were wounded and 1,000 detained in an ensuing crackdown.

On Monday, police shot dead two knife-wielding Uighurs and wounded a third to stop them from attacking a fourth Uighur, a security guard at a mosque in Urumqi.

Also on Monday, officials in Yining city, about 700 km west of Urumqi, announced that more than 70 members of two “violent gangs” had been rounded up, the semi-official China News portal (www.chinanews.com.cn) reported.

Beijing does not want 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.

China has blamed the ethnic unrest on exiled Uighur separatists. They deny the charges.

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China’s president Hu Jinatao ‘endorsed Rio Tinto investigation’

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China’s President Hu Jintao personally endorsed an investigation into global miner Rio Tinto that led to the detention of four of its China-based staff, an Australian newspaper has claimed, citing Chinese government sources.

The investigation appears to be part of a realignment of how China manages its economy in the wake of the global financial crisis, with spy and security agencies promoted to top strategy-making bodies, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said.

The detention a week ago of Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto’s top iron ore salesman in China, Australian Stern Hu, and three of his Chinese subordinates has cast a shadow over Australia-China relations and unnerved the iron ore trade.

Rio Tinto is the world’s second largest iron ore miner and was locked in intense price negotiations with China when Mr Hu and the three others were detained in Shanghai, accused of stealing state secrets and bribing Chinese steelmakers for information.

Stephen Smith, the Australian foreign minister, said on Sunday he was urging Chinese authorities to handle the case expeditiously, and to consider the wider risks for international business confidence. But he also warned the process of freeing the men could be long and difficult.

The nine-member standing committee of China’s Communist Party, led by President Hu, had taken more control over economic decisions at the expense of the State Council, led by Premier Wen Jiabao, the Herald said, quoting anonymous Chinese economic advisers.

The inquiry began before Rio Tinto broke off its $19.5 billion investment deal with Chinese metals firm Chinalco and instead formed an iron ore joint venture with rival BHP Billiton on June 5, the sources told the paper.

“This is certainly not revenge for the Chinalco deal not going through,” the Herald quoted one Chinese government source as saying.

The collapse of the Chinalco deal was immediately followed by the establishment of a high-level, all-of-government group that would assess the political and economic risks of large overseas investment deals, the paper said.

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China bans public mourning in Urumqi

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The Chinese authorities banned public displays of mourning in the western city of Urumqi on Sunday as they sought to prevent further unrest one week after race riots claimed 184 lives.

The police published a notice banning any meetings, especially “assemblies, marches and demonstrations on public roads and at public places in the open air”.

The ban hampered families of the Chinese victims from mourning publicly on the seventh day, in accordance with Chinese tradition. Usually, families visit temples, burn fake money or invite monks to their homes to chant.

Security forces in Urumqi remain deeply concerned about the possibility of further violence, one week after a public protest by Uighur Muslims descended into mass violence and bloodshed. It took three days to restore calm, as mobs of both Uighurs and Han Chinese rampaged through the streets.

The official Xinhua news agency raised the number of injured from the riots to 1,680 yesterday. The government has also clarified that Han Chinese accounted for the majority of the dead.

Zhou Yongkang, the security minister, toured Xinjiang province yesterday, visiting the restive cities of Kashgar and Hotan. The authorities believe that a large number of the rioters in Urumqi, the provincial capital, migrated from these two poorer cities. “A large part of the criminals in the July 5 rioting were from cities 1,500km away, like Kashgar and Hotan, which shows it was organised and planned in advance,” said Li Zhi, Urumqi’s Communist Party secretary.

Mr Zhou called for a “steel wall” of security to “win the tough war of maintaining Xinjiang’s stability”. He said police should “nip all hidden dangers in the bud”, a signal that the region is likely to be subjected to a so-called “strike hard” campaign to weed out anyone seen as a troublemaker.

His words may spell trouble for the local Uighurs, whose plight has roused the sympathy of Muslims from across the Middle East. Iranian clerics became the latest group to speak out against China’s policies in the region, accusing it of “horrible” suppression.

“It is true that the Chinese government and its people have close economic and political ties with Iran and other Islamic countries, but this is no reason for them to horribly suppress our Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi.

Xinjiang, dotted with oil refineries, is crucial for China’s energy supplies, making control of the province an absolute priority for Beijing.

Abundant supplies of oil and gas lie beneath the sands of the Tarim basin and Xinjiang also forms the apex of a series of pipelines funnelling energy from Russia, Kazakhstan and the rest of Central Asia to the neon cities of Beijing and Shanghai, 3,500 miles to the east.

The latest unrest in Urumqi came only days after the announcement that another pipeline will be constructed, designed to supply the power-hungry cities of southern China. “With the decrease in the oil reserves of Heilongjiang and Shandong, the strategic importance of Xinjiang and its untapped reserves grows every year,” said Ren Xianfang, an analyst at IHS Global Insight.

To capitalise on the region’s wealth, China has steadily moved Han Chinese into Xinjiang, swelling their numbers from six per cent of the population in 1949 to 40 per cent today.

Uighurs are officially banned from working in the oil industry for “security reasons” and complain that they see few economic benefits. Wang Lequan, the hardline Communist Party secretary of the province, has admitted that Beijing gets three-quarters of all the tax revenues from Xinjiang’s oil fields. He noted, however, that the region benefits from large scale central funding.

Even in the countryside, the traditionally-agrarian Uighurs feel marginalised. A quasi-military organisation, known as the Bingtuan, controls huge tracts of farmland across the province, employing more than 2.2 million people, the vast majority of whom are Han.

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