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China bans Friday prayers at Urumqi's mosques

July 10, 2009 11:12 IST
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As part of its efforts to restore order in riot-hit Urumqi, China has ordered mosques in the city to stay closed for Friday prayers.

Over 156 people have been killed in five days of communal violence between the Uighur Muslims and China's dominant Han ethnic group in the capital of China's Xinjiang Uighurs province.

About 20 million, representing 47 ethnic groups, live in China's vast Xinjiang region. The largest group is the 8.3 million ethnic Uighurs -- an Islamic central Asian people.

But the number of Han Chinese in the region has risen from six per cent in 1949 to more than 40 per cent now.

The Uighur Muslims, who have been complaining about religious, political and economic repression under the Chinese rule, said they had been directed to pray at home

Critics say it is part of a policy of Han Chinese migration to dilute any nationalist tendencies. More than 1,000 people have been wounded in the region and 1,434 arrested during the unrest.

Meanwhile, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has asked the Chinese government to exercise restraint in dealing with the ethnic violence in Urumqi.

'I am deeply saddened and concerned with the worsening situation in East Turkistan (Xinjiang), especially with the tragic loss of lives. I earnestly urge the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with the situation in a spirit of understanding and far-sightedness,' said Thubten Samphel, spokesperson of the Tibetan government-in-exile while reading the message of the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala.

'I offer my prayers for those who lost their lives, their families and others affected by this sad turn of events,' he added.

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