China’s top communist leaders vowed to maintain stability in the west of the country in their first public comments yesterday on the ethnic riots that killed more than 150 people, and accused overseas forces of orchestrating the violence.
An urgent nine-member Politburo Standing Committee meeting, led by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), called on Communist Party members and officials at all levels to mobilize to restore order, and promised punishment to rioters and leniency to participants who were misled by agitators.
“Preserving and maintaining the overall stability of Xinjiang is currently the most urgent task,” the politburo said, an account carried by the official Xinhua news agency said.
Security forces kept a firm grip on Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, as residents tentatively emerged to go about daily life.
Red stickers put up outside apartment compounds said, “Don’t listen to any rumors” and “Keep calm and maintain public order.”
Crowds of Han Chinese cheered as trucks full of police that were covered in banners reading, “We must defeat the terrorists” and “Oppose ethnic separatism and hatred,” rumbled by.
With the city apparently under control, the next major test for the government will come today, when large numbers of Muslim Uighurs gather for their weekly prayers.
The meeting of the politburo — China’s most powerful body — took place on Wednesday shortly after Hu, also head of the Communist Party, returned after cutting short a trip to Italy where he was to participate in a G8 summit.
“In particular, we must emphasize the thinking of stability above all else to the cadres and masses of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang,’’ the politburo said, according to Xinhua.
It instructed cadres to pursue tough punishment for rioters who committed “serious criminal acts of beating, smashing, looting and burning.”
“We must by law severely attack those hard core elements who planned and organized this incident and seriously violent criminals,” the politburo said. It also called for “preventive measures” against “enemy forces who would undermine ethnic unity” and stressed the need to preserve social stability.
China also rejected calls to raise the unrest at the UN Security Council.
“The Chinese government has taken decisive measures according to law. This is totally China’s internal affair. There’s no reason for Security Council discussion,’’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) told a news conference.
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