The top legislator from China’s riot-hit Xinjiang said authorities would speed up local legislation against separatism in the western region that has a long-running independence movement by minority Uighurs, state media reported yesterday.
China faced its worst unrest in decades this month when tensions between the dominant Han Chinese and the Turkic-speaking, Muslim Uighurs descended into violence in the regional capital of Urumqi.
Nearly 200 people died in the unrest.
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Regional People’s Congress Eligen Imibakhi blamed the July 5 riots on “three forces” — extremism, separatism and terrorism — both at home and abroad, Xinhua news agency reported.
Imibakhi said the public’s lack of understanding about laws was an “urgent problem,” adding that the government would distribute legal booklets in ethnic minority languages to farmers and herdsmen across the region.
China already has a national law against secession, though there are no similar regional laws. Xinjiang is working on legislation that would “provide legal assistance to Xinjiang’s anti-secession struggle and the cracking down on violence and terrorism,” Imibakhi said.
The violence began when police in Urumqi intervened at a peaceful protest by Uighurs, who went on a rampage, smashing windows, burning cars and beating Han Chinese. Two days later, vigilante groups of Han took to the streets and attacked Uighurs.
The government says 197 died in the unrest, with more than 1,700 hurt.
Chinese authorities claim that many of the dead were Han Chinese, though Uighurs say they believe many more of their community were killed in the ensuing government crackdown.
On the weekend, the government said rioters had stockpiled weapons and planned synchronized attacks across Urumqi.
Local police said they had received reports of attacks on people and property in more than 50 locations across Urumqi by 9pm on July 5, Xinhua said. Targets included the offices of the Xinjiang regional committee of the Chinese Communist Party, the public security and fire departments and media organizations.
Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri said police shot the “mobsters” on July 5 after firing warning shots and said 12 people died. He did not say which ethnic group the “mobsters” belonged to.