Violent street battles killed at least 140 people and injured 828 others in the deadliest ethnic unrest to hit China’s western Xinjiang region in decades and officials said yesterday that the death toll was expected to rise.
Police sealed off streets in parts of the provincial capital, Urumqi, after discord between ethnic Muslim Uighurs and China’s Han majority erupted into riots. Witnesses reported a new protest yesterday in a second city, Kashgar.
Columns of paramilitary police in green camouflage uniforms and flak vests marched around Urumqi’s main bazaar — a largely Uighur neighborhood — carrying batons, long bamboo poles and slingshots yesterday. The mobile phone service was blocked and Internet links were also cut or slowed down.
Rioters on Sunday overturned barricades, attacked vehicles and houses, and clashed violently with police in Urumqi, media and witness accounts said. State TV aired footage showing protesters attacking and kicking people on the ground. Others, who appeared to be Han Chinese, sat dazed with blood pouring down their faces.
There was little immediate explanation for how so many people died. Exile groups said the violence started only after police began violently cracking down on a peaceful protest complaining about a fight between Uighur and Han factory workers in another part of China.
About 1,000 to 3,000 Uighur demonstrators had gathered on Sunday in the regional capital for a protest that apparently spun out of control. Accounts differed over what happened, but the violence seemed to have started when the crowd of protesters refused to disperse.
The state-run Xinhua news agency reported hundreds of people were arrested and checkpoints ringed the city to prevent rioters from escaping. Mobile phone services provided by at least one company were cut yesterday to stop people from organizing further action in Xinjiang.
Internet access was blocked or unusually slow in Urumqi yesterday.
An official at the Xinjiang government said more than 260 vehicles were attacked or set on fire in Sunday’s unrest and 203 shops were damaged. She said 140 people were killed and 828 injured in the violence.
Xinhua said several hundred people had been arrested in connection with the riot and police were searching for about 90 other “key suspects.” It also quoted a local police chief as saying the death toll was expected to rise.
Uighur exiles condemned the crackdown.
“We are extremely saddened by the heavy-handed use of force by the Chinese security forces against the peaceful demonstrators,” said Alim Seytoff, vice president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association. “We ask the international community to condemn China’s killing of innocent Uighurs. This is a very dark day in the history of the Uighur people.”
Mamet, a 36-year-old restaurant worker, said he saw People’s Armed Police attack students outside Xinjiang University.
“First they fired tear gas at the students. Then they started beating them and shooting them with bullets. Big trucks arrived and students were rounded up and arrested,” Mamet said.
Meanwhile, a group of 31 Taiwanese tourists traveling with Joan Tour (中安旅行社) were in Urumqi as of yesterday.
The company said that their group entered Urumqi yesterday and did not see the riot. They are scheduled to return tomorrow.
Tourism Bureau Division Chief Chen Mei-hsiu (陳美秀) confirmed that a total of 91 Taiwanese are in Xinjiang, including those from Joan Tour. The other 60 tourists left Urumqi before the riot, she said.
The Mainland Council Affairs (MAC) has not issued any travel alerts for Xinjiang.
The Taipei Times tried to contact the MAC for its view on the situation in Urumuqi, but a spokesperson was unavailable for comment.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHELLEY SHAN AND STAFF WRITER
CLOSED FOR DISINFECTION: Two of the three local cases were linked to a cluster infection at a kindergarten, while the other case works at a McDonald’s restaurant The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported three new local COVID-19 infections and 11 imported cases, but no deaths. The local cases are two men and a woman aged between 20 and 80 who reside in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taoyuan, the CECC said in a news release. Two of them are linked to a cluster infection at a kindergarten in New Taipei City’s Banciao District (板橋), said Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is the CECC’s spokesman. He said they are both associated with the mother of a kindergarten student, who was earlier confirmed to have
BIOLOGICAL AGENT: A containment exercise was held in southern Tainan, in response to a mock assault where troops were assumed to be attacked by bioweapons The live-fire component of this year’s annual Han Kuang military exercises, Taiwan’s major war games involving all military branches, began yesterday morning and is to run until Friday to test the armed forces’ capability to fend off a Chinese invasion. The 37th edition of the annual event officially began after the Ministry of National Defense’s Joint Operations Command Center, also known as the Hengshan Command Center, announced the initiation of the five-day live-fire drills. Yesterday’s drills were focused on testing the military’s preservation and maintenance of combat capabilities in the event of a full-scale Chinese invasion. As part of the drills, air force
‘RAISING TAIWAN’S VISIBILITY’: Premier Su Tseng-chang said changing TECRO’s name to include ‘Taiwan’ would make the representative office more recognizable The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday declined comment on a Financial Times report that the name of Taiwan’s representative office in Washington might be changed, saying only that bolstering and upgrading ties with the US has been the government’s long-term objective. The ministry made the comments after the UK-based newspaper reported on that US President Joe Biden’s administration is considering allowing the government to use the word “Taiwan” in the office’s title. The US is “seriously considering a request from Taiwan to change the name of its mission in the US capital from ‘Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office’ [TECRO] to ‘Taiwan
WELCOME BACK: Foreign spouses or minor children of Taiwanese can now directly apply for a visa with representative offices overseas, the CECC said Regulations on applications for entry to the nation by foreign spouses or minor children of Taiwanese have been relaxed effective immediately, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported two new local and three imported cases of COVID-19. Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥), deputy head of the center, said the relaxation meant that such applications would be treated as general cases, instead of special ones that are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. “Considering the recent local COVID-19 situation and the needs of foreign spouses and children to visit their family in Taiwan, we are allowing Taiwan’s