Unrest in China’s Muslim Xinjiang

China has raised the death toll from ethnic rioting in the far western region of Xinjiang to 184, the state Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.
It said 137 of those killed were Han Chinese, who form the majority of China’s population.
Forty-six were Uighurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia. They make up almost half of Xinjiang’s 20 million people.
Xinhua said the other dead person from the violence that erupted last weekend was from the Hui Muslim ethnic group which is culturally akin to Han Chinese.
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.
Fresh protests erupted in Xinjiang region, two days after at least 156 people were killed and over 1,000 wounded in the country’s worst ethnic violence in decades. On Tuesday, some 200 ethnic Uyghurs, who are a Muslim minority, took to the streets to protest over the mass arrest of more than 1,400 people following Sunday’s clashes. The protesters–mostly women and children–were surrounded by riot police armed with rifles and tear gas.
Later, hundreds of ethnic Han Chinese marched through the streets of Urumqi–the capital of Xinjiang province–armed with clubs and machetes, smashing shops and stalls belonging to Uyghurs. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. The two sides blame each other for the outbreak of violence. Officials say 156 people–mostly ethnic Han Chinese–died in Sunday’s violence. Uyghurs groups say many more have died, claiming 90 percent of the dead are Uyghurs. The Uyghur demonstrators say they had been demanding justice for two Uyghurs killed last month in a fight with Han Chinese at a toy factory in southeastern China.
Chinese authorities have tried to crack down on dissent since Sunday’s protests, carrying out mass arrests, restricting media access and cutting off cell phone and internet services.
Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday night convened a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to discuss the deadly Xinjiang riot.
Standing Committee members agreed that stability in Xinjiang was the “most important and pressing task,” according to a statement issued on Thursday. They also vowed “severe punishment” of culprits in accordance with the law.
Mr. Hu, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, cut short his trip to Europe and skipped the G8 meeting due to the situation in Xinjiang.
The government would “firmly crack down on serious crimes, including assaults, vandalism, looting and arson” to maintain social stability and safeguard people’s fundamental interests in Xinjiang, said the statement.
The Standing Committee ordered authorities to “isolate and crack down on the tiny few” and “unify and educate the majority of masses”. “Instigators, organisers, culprits and violent criminals in the unrest shall be severely punished in accordance with the law,” it said. “Those taking part in the riot due to provocation and deceit by separatists, should be given education”.

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