China's Ethnic Conflict: Uighurs Against Han Chinese

Armen Hareyan's picture

The international community has been disturbed by the latest events in China. Many are wondering about the essence of the conflict. Despite what people may think, the conflict is of an ethnic nature. The conflict is between Han Chinese and Uighurs. Now China says it has restored order. But there was a crackdown.

China said on Tuesday that order had been restored in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where at least 156 people were killed Sunday in inter ethnic clashes.

"The local authorities have restored the order in Urumqi, life is coming back to normal," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular briefing.

Local authorities, who have introduced a curfew in Urumqi, accused the World Uighur Congress of fomenting the riots, saying its head Rebiya Kadeer was orchestrating the unrest from exile in the United States.

The Congress said over 840 people died in the riots.

Xinhua said earlier on Tuesday that around 1,000 people took to the streets demanding the release of relatives arrested during the riots.

Western journalists who were on a tour of the capital reported, however, that around 200 women and children had blocked a street calling for their relatives' release.

The riots started in Urumqi on Sunday when a group of protesters demanded an investigation into the death of two ethnic Uighurs, who died during a fight with Han Chinese workers at a toy factory in late June. Around 1,500 people have been arrested.

Xinhua said protesting ethnic Uighurs attacked a number of Han Chinese, burning vehicles and attacking buses with sticks and rocks.

On Tuesday, however, other media reported that mass rallies of Han Chinese were targeting Muslim Uighur people in the city.

Xinhua said some 1,080 people were injured in the clashes. Over 20,000 armed police were called in to stop the unrest.

Xinjiang's 8 million Uighurs have complained of political, cultural and religious persecution by Beijing and there have been repeated calls by the Uighur community for more autonomy, with some seeking independence from China.

There are officially 56 ethnic groups in China, with Han Chinese making up 91.6% of the population.

Materials from RIA Novosti are used in this report.

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