China’s President Hu Jintao arrives to attend a news conference with Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome July 6, 2009.
Hu leaves G8 as new protests erupt in China
Armed Chinese soldiers in riot gear block a main street leading to the end of the city occupied by ethnic Uighurs in Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region July 8, 2009.
URUMQI, China (Reuters) – Banks of anti-riot police tried to drive a wedge into a crowd of about 1,000 Han Chinese protesters on Wednesday in Urumqi after 156 people were killed at the weekend in the region’s worst ethnic violence for decades.
Urumqi, capital of the far-flung northwestern region of Xinjiang, imposed an overnight curfew after thousands of Han stormed through its streets demanding redress and sometimes extracting bloody vengeance on Uighurs for Sunday’s violence.
There were scuffles in the volatile crowd on Wednesday as police and security forces seized apparent ringleaders, prompting cries of “release them, release them”.
President Hu Jintao abandoned plans to attend a G8 summit in Italy, returning home to monitor developments in energy-rich Xinjiang, where 1,080 people have been wounded and 1,434 arrested since Sunday.
Financial markets again appeared unaffected and life was returning to the streets of Uighur neighborhoods. But residents said night-time arrests were continuing and they were quietly preparing to defend against further Han attacks.
Urumqi airport was crowded with people anxious to leave. “We fear Xinjiang is not safe any more,” said one passenger who refused to be identified.
The city was on edge. In one downtown street, two young boys were surrounded by an angry mob, with dozens trying to pull them down and grabbing at their hair.
Volatile and swelling Han crowds protested against security forces seizing young Han men.
“Why are you catching Han Chinese? They are only trying to protect us,” said one woman in the crowd, bickering with police.
Rumors swirled. A group of Uighur men said they were convinced two locals died in Tuesday’s confrontations and that there were many more deaths across the city.
A man in his 50s, who gave name as Mohammed Ali, said he had heard from neighbors and friends that two men had died and two had been seriously wounded.
“Now we are scared to go anywhere,” he said. “Doing even simple things becomes frightening.”
“BLOOD FOR BLOOD INCOMPATIBLE WITH RULE OF LAW”
Police say Sunday’s clashes were triggered by a brawl between Uighurs and Han at a factory in south China prompted by a rumor Uighurs had raped two women. Police have detained 15 people in connection with the factory brawl, including two suspected of spreading rumours on the Internet.
“If a wrong is avenged with another wrong, there would be no end to it,” the state-owned English-language China Daily said in an editorial.
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