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Husein Dzhelil standing in front of the Canadian Parliament buildings, Ottawa, Ontario, May2005.
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China's Xinjiang 'isolated' by email, phone blocks

BEIJING — Residents in China's restive Xinjiang region remain isolated from the outside world with long-lasting Internet and phone cuts that have prompted some businesses to relocate, locals said Saturday.

Emails are still blocked nearly four months after deadly ethnic unrest erupted in the regional capital Urumqi, as are text messages and international phone calls, residents told AFP.

"Our business has been seriously affected, and we have had to set up an office in Lanzhou (capital of neighbouring Gansu province)," said the head of an Urumqi-based firm, who asked to remain anonymous.

Xinjiang authorities "set up a green channel (for calls and the Internet) for... trade companies in Xinjiang, but it's not enough for us to handle business", he told AFP by phone.

Riots erupted in Urumqi on July 5, leaving 197 people dead, according to official figures, in the worst ethnic violence in China in decades.

Authorities quickly reacted by restricting the flow of information going in and out of the region, in one of the biggest known Internet shutdowns anywhere.

The government says terrorists, separatists and religious extremists used the Internet, telephones and mobile text messages to spread rumours and hatred as the July violence erupted in Urumqi.

But nearly four months later, residents in Xinjiang said they still had very limited access to the Internet.

"Emails can't be sent and received, Internet can only be used in Xinjiang and text messages can't be used," a receptionist at a hotel in Kashgar, another big city in the region, told AFP by phone.

One businessman in Urumqi, who also wished to remain anonymous, said his company had not relocated but was having to contact all clients by fax.

According to a blog by a 26-year-old American man living in Xinjiang, Dunhuang city in neighbouring Gansu had become a mecca for businessmen in Xinjiang.

"Pretty much the first city outside of Xinjiang with Internet access, Dunhuang has become the place for all businessmen and foreigners to go to regain access to email and business contacts," he wrote in an October 19 posting.

"Hotels and coffee shops tell me they've seen a noticeable increase in Xinjiang traffic."
Uyghur Canadian Society (UCS)
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