Thursday, July 30, 2009

China strengthens its grip on Uighur Province

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has made public a list of names and photographs of 15 Uighurs wanted for their roles in rioting which killed almost 200 people in the Muslim region of Xinjiang this month.

The Public Security Bureau of regional capital Urumqi issued a notice urging the first batch of fugitives "not to hope that they would be lucky enough to get away with it," state media reported on Thursday. Ah yes, first take away their 'hope'.

Ethnic Violence
In Xinjiang's worst ethnic violence in decades, local Uighur rioters attacked the majority (immigrant) Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5 after taking to the streets to protest against attacks on Uighurs workers at a factory in south China in June, which left two Uighurs dead. The Hans in Urumqi sought revenge two days later.

The violence left 197 people dead, mostly Han Chinese, and wounded more than 1,600. About 1,000 people, mostly Uighurs, have been detained in an ensuing Chinese government crackdown.

Legal Prosecutions
The notice said leniency would be shown to those who turned themselves in within 10 days and that the punishment would be reduced for those who informed or made "great contributions."

"Those refusing to surrender will be dealt with severely in accordance with the law," the notice said. The government also offered rewards to the public who report on rioters.

In recent days, 253 more people have been detained after being turned in by "local residents of different ethnic groups," state media said.

The Background
Xinjiang has long been a tightly controlled hotbed of ethnic tensions, fostered by an economic gap between many Uighurs and Han Chinese, government controls on religion and culture and an influx of Han migrants who are now the majority in the capital, Urumqi.

Beijing does not want to lose its grip on a vast territory that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, because it has abundant oil reserves and is China's largest natural gas-producing region.

Indigenous People
Uighurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia, make up almost half of Xinjiang's 20 million people.

The government has blamed the killings on exiled Uighurs seeking independence, especially Rebiya Kadeer, an activist now living in exile in the United States. Kadeer has denied the accusations.

Kadeer told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday that nearly 10,000 Uighurs involved in the riots went missing in one night and called for an international investigation. China has condemned her visit to Tokyo.
Could this be the next Tibet? An invasion by any other name?

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