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Beijing Uses Force to Crack Down on Uyghur Protesters

Nearly 10,000 ethnic Uyghur protesters gathered in front of the Urumqi City government, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Sunday, July 5. The government responded with riot police and tanks, using machine guns to kill and injure thousands. The protest spread to Kashgar, the second-largest city in Xinjiang. The government has sent 30,000 riot police to major cities in Xinjiang.

The Chinese government reported 140 deaths and 828 injuries on July 6; on July 7, it revised the numbers to 156 dead and 1080 injured. The spokesperson of the World Uyghur Congress said the true numbers are much higher and that most victims are Uyghurs killed by gun fire. He also accused the Chinese government of attempting to distort the conflict between the ethnic Uyghurs and Beijing as a conflict between Uyghurs and the Han people.

After taking control of the city, the Chinese government opened Urumqi to foreign reporters, intending to show the Uyghur mobs and Han victims. More than 100 reporters have gone to Urumqi since July 6. An official tour backfired when journalists crossed the street to talk to Uyghurs. Beijing’s one-sided story stirred up so much animosity toward the Han people that the rioting constinued on July 7.

The originally Uyghur protest was held to express dissatisfaction with the government’s improper handling of the June 26 incident at a toy factory in Shaoguan City, Guangdong Provice. A disgruntled, unemployed worker had started a false rumor on-line that six males from Xinjiang had sexually assaulted two girls at the toy factory. Uyghur workers were accused of the raping Han workers, which led to a bloody clash between the Uyghur and Han workers, causing 79 Uyghur injuries and 2 Uyghur deaths.

[1] Epoch Times, July 7, 2009
[2] BBC Chinese, July 7, 2009
[3] Deutsche Welle, July 7, 2009,,4462185,00.html
[4] BBC Chinese, June 27, 2009