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China warns of reprisals in Algeria after unrest

APTOPIX China Protest

China warns of reprisals in Algeria after unrest

URUMQI, China – China’s embassy in Algeria has warned Chinese companies and workers to be on guard for attacks after an Islamist Web site called for retaliation for Beijing’s response to unrest in its predominantly Muslim western province.

A notice posted late Tuesday on the embassy’s Web site follows a torrent of ethnic clashes this month that left at least 184 dead in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi. Riots by Muslim Uighurs and subsequent fighting between Uighurs and members of the Han Chinese majority were the worst ethnic violence China has seen in decades.

“In light of the (riots), the Chinese Embassy in Algeria reminds Chinese-funded companies and personnel to enhance security awareness and strengthen security measures,” the notice said.

In recent days, postings on an Islamist Web site in the Arab world suggested killing Han Chinese in the Middle East, noting there are large communities of ethnic Chinese laborers working in Algeria and Saudi Arabia.

Urumqi was calm Wednesday, although security was tight, especially near Uighur areas after Monday’s fatal shooting of two Uighurs by police. The city government says the two — and third man, who was wounded — attacked police trying to break up a fight.

China has been worried that the violence may overshadow its good relations with Muslim countries. Turkey has already called the unrest “a kind of genocide.” The Turkic-speaking Uighurs share cultural and ethnic bonds with Turks.

On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang appealed for understanding of China’s handling of the unrest and rejected assertions it would hurt Beijing’s ties with Muslim countries.

“If they have a clear idea about the true nature of the incident, they would understand China’s policies concerning religion and religious issues and understand the measures we have taken,” he told a regular news conference.

An editorial in the China Daily, the official English-language newspaper, said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “would be well advised to take back his remarks,” calling them a “groundless and irresponsible accusation.”

Qin said the July 5 riots “were aimed at sabotaging China and sabotaging ethnic unity. It was orchestrated by the three forces (terrorism, religious extremism and separatism) in and outside of China.”

The July 5 riots began when Uighurs who were protesting last month’s deaths of fellow factory workers in a brawl in southern China clashed with police. Crowds scattered throughout the city, attacking ethnic Han Chinese and burning cars.

Uighurs, who number 9 million in Xinjiang, have complained about an influx of Han Chinese and government restrictions on their Muslim religion. They accuse the Han of discrimination and the Communist Party of trying to erase their language and culture.

Han Chinese, many of whom were encouraged to emigrate to Xinjiang by the government, believe the Uighurs should be grateful for the region’s rapid economic development, which has brought schools, airports and oil wells to the sprawling, rugged region the size of Texas.

China blames Rebiya Kadeer, a prominent exiled Uighur activist, for inciting the unrest. It has not provided evidence to back its claim, and Kadeer, who lives in Washington, D.C., has denied the charges. She blames government policies for exacerbating long-standing tensions between the dominant Han Chinese and the minority Muslim Uighur community.

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China raises Xinjiang death toll to 184


China raises Xinjiang death toll to 184

URUMQI, China july 11 – China has raised the death toll from ethnic rioting in the far western region of Xinjiang to 184, and for the first time gave a breakdown by ethnicity and sex of those who died, state media reported on Saturday.

The official Xinhua news agency said that 137 of those killed were Han Chinese, who form the majority of China’s population, including 111 men and 26 women.

Forty-six were Uighurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia. All but one were men. Uighurs make up almost half of Xinjiang’s 20 million people.

Xinhua said the other dead person from the violence that erupted last weekend was a member of the Hui Muslim ethnic group which is culturally akin to Han Chinese.

Chinese authorities had delayed releasing the ethnic breakdown of the dead, possibly out of concern it would further inflame the situation.

Beijing cannot afford to lose its grip on the vast 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.

On July 5, demonstrations in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi by Uighurs protesting against an attack on Uighur workers in southern China turned deadly after police moved in. Shops and vehicles were burned.

Human Rights Watch said that the government had deployed some 20,000 troops in Urumqi since the riots.

“The government has promised a thorough investigation into the violence but has so far presented a skewed and incomplete picture of the unrest,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“This raises serious doubts about its commitment to investigating all aspects of the violence rather than presenting a pre-determined version of the events.”


Urumqi is still tense, with thousands of troops and police deployed throughout the city. A brief demonstration broke out on Friday, the main Muslim day of prayer, after some mosques were opened briefly. [ID:nPEK227814]

Xinhua did not specify if any of the dead were killed on Tuesday, when Han Chinese residents of Urumqi took to the streets in demonstrations and in at least one instance clashed with Uighurs.

Many Uighurs resent controls imposed by Beijing and the influx of Han Chinese migrants, whom they say are the main beneficiaries of China’s economic development. China has blamed the unrest on “separatists”, singling out exiled Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer, who lives in the United States. Kadeer denies any involvement.

The government has slammed Kadeer and exiled Uighurs for using pictures from other incidents of unrest in different parts of China and claiming they were taken in Xinjiang.

“The discredited Kadeer surely loves the spotlight and (the) photo-op, but she should also bear in mind that greater publicity may do her more harm than good, if she keeps telling lies,” Xinhua said in an English-language commentary on Saturday.

On Friday, foreign reporters were ordered to leave Kashgar, an oasis city in southern Xinjiang that is still majority Uighur. Earlier this year, China announced plans to raze the city’s historic centre, citing concerns about earthquake safety.

The Uighur language is related to Turkish, and some Uighurs refer to their desert homeland as “East Turkestan”.

On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called the killings in Xinjiang a “genocide”.

In Washington, two members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning the “violent repression” of the Uighur people by China and urging Beijing to “end its slander” of Kadeer. It is unclear how soon it will come to a vote in the House.

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China police use tear gas to disperse Xinjiang protests


Policemen carry a woman who had fainted on a street in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region July 7, 2009. REUTER/China Daily

China police use tear gas to disperse Xinjiang protests

URUMQI, China (Reuters) – Riot police fired tear gas to disperse rock-throwing Han Chinese protesters who took to the streets in the capital of the Muslim region of Xinjiang on Tuesday, two days after ethnic unrest left 156 dead and more than 1,000 wounded.

Hundreds of protesters from China’s predominant Han ethnic group smashed shops owned by Uighurs, a Turkic largely Islamic people who share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia.

Uighurs protesting against the arrest of relatives also clashed with police. Many were women, wailing and waving the identity cards of husbands, brothers or sons they say were arbitrarily seized in a sweeping reaction to Sunday’s rioting in the city of Urumqi.

“My husband was taken away yesterday by police. They didn’t say why. They just took him away,” a woman who identified herself as Maliya told Reuters.

Fighting broke out briefly when Uighur protesters advanced towards hundreds of anti-riot police carrying clubs and shields on Tuesday, but there was no bloodshed.

Along with Tibet, Xinjiang is one of the most politically sensitive regions in China and in both places the government has sought to maintain its grip by controlling religious and cultural life while promising economic growth and prosperity.

Some protesters vowed defiance and denounced the arrests after the protest in Saimachang, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Urumqi with small shops and brick-and-mud homes along dusty alleys.

Abdul Ali, a Uighur man in his 20s who had taken off his shirt, held up his clenched fist. “They’ve been arresting us for no reason, and it’s time for us to fight back,” he said.

Xinjiang has long been a hotbed of ethnic tensions, fostered by a yawning economic gap between Uighurs and Han Chinese, government controls on religion and culture and an influx of Han Chinese migrants who now are the majority in most key cities.

Beijing has poured cash into exploiting Xinjiang’s rich oil and gas deposits and consolidating its hold on a strategically vital frontierland that borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, but Uighurs say migrant Han are the main beneficiaries.


Part of the crowd briefly surged forward singing the Chinese national anthem before police drove them back with tear gas.

Anti-riot police armed with clubs and shields pushed protesters away from a Uighur neighbourhood but hundreds managed to break through police lines.

There was a standoff between police and a crowd of mainly Han Chinese and some Hui Muslims. They chanted slogans including “Unity is Strength” and “Defend Stability, Protect the People”.

Many of the Uighur protesters were women, wailing and waving the identity cards of husbands, brothers or sons they say were arbitrarily seized in a sweeping reaction to Sunday’s rioting in the city of Urumqi.

“My husband was taken away yesterday by police. They didn’t say why. They just took him away,” a woman who identified herself as Maliya told Reuters.

The crowd began to march towards the Xinjiang regional government, saying the government was too weak. “Now it’s time to go to the government,” one protester surnamed Zhang said.

Abdul Ali, a Uighur man in his 20s who had taken off his shirt, held up his clenched fist. “They’ve been arresting us for no reason, and it’s time for us to fight back,” he said.

Ali said three of his brothers and a sister were among 1,434 suspects taken into custody. Of the 156 killed, 27 were women.

Human rights groups have warned that a harsh crackdown on Uighurs in the wake of Sunday’s violence could merely exacerbate the grievances that fuelled ethnic tensions.

Urumqi Communist Party boss Li Zhi defended the crackdown.

“It should be said that they were all violent elements who wielded clubs and smashed, looted, burned and even murdered at the scene,” he told a news conference.

Earlier on Tuesday, Xinjiang’s Communist Party boss Wang Lequan said that although Sunday’s unrest had been quelled, “this struggle is far from over”.

Xinjiang’s state-run media quoted Wang as calling for officials to launch “a struggle against separatism”.

But Human Rights Watch’s Asia advocacy director Sophie Richardson called for an independent investigation.


Some Xinjiang newspapers carried graphic pictures of the violence, including corpses, at least one of which showed a woman whose throat had been slashed.

Despite heightened security, some unrest appeared to be spreading in the volatile region, where long-standing ethnic tensions periodically erupt into bloodshed.

Police dispersed around 200 people at the Id Kah mosque in Kashgar in southern Xinjiang on Monday evening, Xinhua said.

The report did not say if police used force but said checkpoints had been set up at crossroads between Kashgar airport and downtown.

Almost half of Xinjiang’s 20 million people are Uighurs, while the population of Urumqi, which lies around 3,300 km (2,000 miles) west of Beijing, is mostly Han.

Chinese officials have already blamed the unrest on separatist groups abroad which it says want to create an independent homeland for Uighurs.

The Chinese embassy in the Netherlands was attacked by exiled pro-Uighur activists who smashed windows, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. China condemned the attack.

(Additional reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison, Yu Le and Benjamin Kang Lim in Beijing; Paul Eckert in Washington; and Ben Blanchard in Shanghai)

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