HAN SEEK REVENGE AFTER UIGHUR RIOTING

Authorities struggled to contain some of China’s worst ethnic violence in decades yesterday as gangs of Han Chinese defied a government crackdown and took to the streets seeking revenge against the Muslim Uighur minority.

The authorities had appeared to have the north-western city of Urumqi under control by yesterday morning, with shops opening and public transport running for the first time since riots on Sunday, in which officials say more than 150 people were killed.

But gangs of Han Chinese armed with sticks and bars started to form in the early afternoon and poured down two main streets towards the Great Bazaar, Urumqi’s traditional Uighur trading quarter.

Han Chinese, many of whom are angry at the failure of security forces to protect their community on Sunday, later cheered on riot police when they intervened to separate them from Uighurs with whom they were fighting.

Beijing has battled against a low-level insurgency in the region of Xinjiang for decades, but unrest has grown in recent years as many Uighurs began to feel left behind by rapid economic growth that benefits mainly members of China’s dominant Han ethnic group who have moved there.

The Xinjiang riots are of deep concern to Beijing, as they could trigger unrest among other minority groups with complaints similar to those of the Uighurs. Protests spread to the Uighur-majority oasis town of Kashgar yesterday, the state news agency Xinhua reported.

China’s leaders, including Hu Jintao, the president, who is in Italy to attend the Group of Eight summit, have yet to comment directly on the unrest. But officials have sought to blame Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled Uighur leader, and others for the violence.

Ms Kadeer dismissed Beijing’s charges in a BBC interview yesterday.

China’s embassy in the Netherlands was attacked by exiled pro-Uighur activists who threw rocks that smashed windows, and two men threw Molotov cocktails at a Munich consulate, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Sunday’s protests were sparked by the deaths of two Uighurs in clashes with Han Chinese at a toy factory near Hong Kong late last month.

The Communist party secretary of Xinjiang, Wang Lequan, who is under intense pressure from Beijing to bring the volatile situation under control, pleaded to Han Chinese not to take the law into their own hands. “Some Han people took to the streets in Urumqi today, disrupting social orders. This is not necessary at all,” he said.

Li Zhi, the Communist party chief in Urumqi city, said the authorities had arrested more than 1,400 suspects allegedly involved in the Sunday riots.

Uighur women also took to the streets yesterday to protest against the arrest of their husbands and sons. “My husband was detained at gunpoint. They were hitting people, they were stripping people naked. My husband was scared so he locked the door, but the police broke down the door and took him away,” a woman, who gave her name as Aynir told the Associated Press. She said about 300 people were arrested in the market in the southern section of town.

Mr Li said the men arrested had all been caught red-handed. “We caught them in the act of beating, smashing, robbing, burning and killing. We dragged them out from under beds still with clubs in their hands,” he said.

The Uighurs, who comprise just under half the region’s population, had long complained at Communist rule in Xinjiang, saying that officials restrict religious worship, stifle their culture and keep most of the economic benefits in the region’s oil and natural gas reserves for their own community.

Xinjiang has seen waves of Han immigration for decades. According to the official point of view, which is shared by most Han Chinese, that is only positive. Anyone who rejects it is viewed as a separatist.

For Urumqi’s angry Han, however, passions are boiling over. At sunset, with just half an hour to go to the 9pm curfew, ever larger groups of stick- and knife-wielding young men came marching south from all over Urumqi. Police, soldiers and the fire brigade erected several roadblocks, but crowds soon regrouped.

A young man who had been stopped at an army barricade on a bridge flew into a rage.

“Soldiers, you must treat the people well, for it is the people who feed you!” he screamed, waving his stick at a trooper guarding Urumqi’s military headquarters.

中国当局昨日竭力遏制国内数十年来最严重的一些民族骚乱,汉族人群不顾政府的弹压走上街头,寻机报复穆斯林维吾尔少数民族。

截至昨日上午,当局似乎已将乌鲁木齐市置于控制之下,自上周日爆发骚乱以来,商店首次开门营业,公共交通首次恢复运行。官员们表示,已有逾150人在骚乱中丧生。

但是在午后,手持棍棒的汉人开始聚集,然后沿着两条主要街道向大巴扎(Great Bazaar,乌鲁木齐市维吾尔人传统的商业区)行进。

许多汉人对于警方在上周日未能保护他们的社区感到愤怒,这些汉人随后向赶来的防暴警察发出欢呼,警察把他们和正与之打斗的维吾尔人隔开。

中国政府在新疆与低烈度的叛乱活动作斗争已有数十年之久,但近年来不安定局面有所加剧,因为许多维吾尔人开始感到,快速经济增长主要惠及了迁居当地的中国多数民族——汉族人,而自己则被落在了后面。

新疆发生的骚乱令中国政府深感担忧,因为这可能触发其他少数民族的动荡,这些少数民族与维吾尔人有着类似的怨言。据官方的新华社报道,昨日抗议活动扩散至维吾尔人占多数的绿洲城市喀什。

中国领导人,包括正在意大利参加八国集团(G8)峰会的国家主席胡锦涛,尚未直接就骚乱发表评论。但官员们已指责流亡维吾尔领袖热比娅·卡德尔和其他人要对此次暴力事件负责。

热比娅昨日在接受英国广播公司(BBC)采访时,否认了中国政府的指控。

中国外交部发言人表示,中国驻荷兰大使馆遭到流亡维吾尔活动人士的袭击,这些人扔石块砸坏使馆窗户,还有两人向中国驻慕尼黑领事馆投掷燃烧瓶。

上月下旬,两名维吾尔人在邻近香港的一家玩具厂与汉人打斗中丧生,由此引发了周日的骚乱。

新疆自治区党委书记王乐泉正承受着北京方面的巨大压力,要求他尽快控制动荡局面。他呼吁汉人不要擅自主持正义。他昨日表示,一些汉族群众走上乌鲁木齐街头,“把本来已经基本正常的社会治安秩序搞得乱哄哄的”,这种行动“根本没有必要”。

乌鲁木齐市党委书记栗智称,当局已逮捕了逾1400名涉嫌参与上周日骚乱的疑犯。

昨日,维吾尔妇女也走上街头,抗议自己的丈夫和儿子被捕。“我丈夫在枪口下被捕。他们打人,他们让人脱光了衣服接受检查。我丈夫很害怕,所以他把门锁上了,但警察撞开门,把他带走了,”一位自称名叫Aynir的妇女告诉美联社(Associated Press)。她表示,在该市南区的市场有大约300人被捕。

栗智表示,所有被捕的男子都是在骚乱中被抓的。他表示,警方是在这些人实施打砸抢、纵火和杀人的过程中抓捕他们的,有一部分人从床底下被拉出来时,手上还拿着棍棒。

在新疆总人口中占了将近一半的维吾尔族,对新疆的共产党统治素有怨言。他们表示,官员们限制宗教信仰、压制他们的文化,并将新疆油气资源带来的经济效益多数留给汉人。

数十年来,有大批汉人先后迁至新疆。根据官方的观点(多数汉人也持这种观点),这完全是一件好事。任何反对这种观点的人,都被视为分裂分子。

但是,乌鲁木齐市的汉人十分愤怒。日落时分,距离晚上9时开始的宵禁只有半小时左右,越来越多的年轻人挥舞着刀和棍棒,从四面八方涌向乌鲁木齐南部。警察、士兵和消防队架设了多个路障,但人群很快就重新集结。

在桥上被军方路障拦阻的一名年轻人发怒了。

“军人们,你们必须好好对待人民,因为你们是人民养活的!”他高声叫道,并向守卫乌鲁木齐警备区总部的一名士兵挥舞棍棒。

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