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Hundreds die in China's worst ethnic riots

Last updated on: July 7, 2009 

Hundreds die in China's worst ethnic riots

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Press Trust of India

Fresh unrest has broken out in China's restive northwestern region of Xinjiang, where over 156 people have died in the worst communal flare up in decades leading to the arrest of over 1,400 people, including 55 women, in a massive crackdown.

A crowd of around 300 people staged a fresh protest in the regional capital Urumqi as a group of Beijing-based foreign journalists arrived in the city for reporting on the deadly riots between the ethnic Muslim Uygur community and the majority Han Chinese.


Image: A woman on a crutch argues with a Chinese soldier in front of an armoured personnel carrier and soldiers wearing riot gear
Photographs: David Gray/Reuters
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'A crowd of protesters surrounded a group of foreign journalists Tuesday morning, shouting slogans and creating a chaos,' state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

It said 300 people joined the protest as about 1,000 people were watching.

A Xinjiang official, meanwhile, said severe punishment will be meted out to the mob in the 'deadliest riot since New China was founded in 1949'.


Image: A truck, which was destroyed in Sunday's riot, is hoisted
Photographs: China Daily/Reuters
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Police has arrested 1,434 suspects over Sunday's riot, including 1,379 men and 55 women for allegedly indulging in acts of "killing, beating, smashing, looting and burning".

A government spokesman said the journalists, about 60 in number, were visiting a Uygur community, when a woman and her child came up, crying and demanding that the police release her husband, who she said was picked up over the riots. She said she would die rather than live without him.


Image: A woman yells as another cries in front of Chinese soldiers wearing riot gear as a crowd of angry locals confront security forces on a street
Photographs: David Gray/Reuters
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The latest riots are the worst to have hit the region that is marked by a history of unrest and separatist movements.

Hundreds of protesters, who hit the streets on Sunday, were demanding an investigation into a clash between Uygur and Han Chinese labourers at a toy factory in a southern China in June, in which two people were killed.

Image: Policemen stand in front of vehicles, which were destroyed during Sunday riot in Urumqi
Photographs: China Daily/Reuters
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The violence erupted after an initially peaceful demonstration went out of control with violent protesters smashing vehicles and clashing with the police.

Uygur exile groups alleged that the violence started only after the police launched a violent crackdown.

According to Huffingtonpost.com, Internet access was blocked or unusually slow in Urumqi on Monday. Videos and text updates about the riots were removed from China-based social networking sites such as Youku, a YouTube-like video service, and Fanfou, a Chinese micro-blogging Web site similar to Twitter.


Image: A boy holds an eastern Turkestan flag during a demonstration in Istanbul, to protest against the deadly riot in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang
Photographs: Osman Orsal/Reuters
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China has blamed separatist World Uygur Congress head Rebiya Kadeer, now living in exile in the US, for orchestrating the violence.

Rebiya, a former businesswoman, was detained in 1999 on charges of harming national security. She was released on bail in March 2005 to seek medical treatment in the US. 


Image: Chinese riot police get into position as Uighur protesters gather during a demonstration
Photographs: Nir Elias/Reuters
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Riots had erupted in the region ahead of the Olympics held last August. Seventeen policemen were killed in Kashgar on August 4 in what China described as a 'terrorist' attack.

Xinjiang has roughly eight million Uighurs, who have accused the government of suppressing their rights.


Image: A woman pushes at Chinese soldiers wearing riot gear as a crowd of angry locals confront security forces on a street
Photographs: David Gray/Reuters
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