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Chinese Police 'Gun Down' Xinjiang Demonstrators in Clash

Bloomberg July 18, 2011



July 19 (Bloomberg) -- Police gunned down rioters in northwestern China's Xinjiang region yesterday, with the official state media and an organization representing the Uighur ethnic group giving conflicting accounts of the incident.

China's official Xinhua News Agency, citing unidentified people at the Ministry of Public Security, said rioters rushed a police station in the city of Hotan at about 12 p.m. yesterday, taking hostages and setting the building on fire. One member of the armed police, a security officer and two hostages were killed, one security officer was severely injured and police "gunned down several rioters," the news service said.

The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, citing unidentified people in Xinjiang, said police fired on about 100 ethnic Uighurs protesters in the city's main bazaar, according to a statement from the affiliated Washington-based Uyghur American Association. The demonstration was against land seizures and disappearances after riots two years ago, the group said.

"People should view the Chinese government statements with extreme caution," Amy Reger, a researcher for the Uyghur American Association, said in an interview today.

There were clashes in 2009 between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and the Han Chinese ethnic group in the region's capital killed almost 200 people and injured more than 1,000. Some Uighurs, who share ethnicity with people in central Asia, advocate independence for Xinjiang.

Han Migration

Han Chinese, who make up about 90 percent of China's population, have been settling in Xinjiang for decades and now account for more than four in 10 people in the region. The top leader in Xinjiang, Communist Party chief Zhang Chunxian, is an ethnic Han.

The Xinjiang riots come as protests increase across China as income gaps widen. So-called mass incidents -- riots, strikes and protests -- doubled in five years to 180,000 in 2010, Sun Liping, a professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University, said in a Feb. 25 article in the Economic Observer.

Hotan is in southwestern Xinjiang, near China's border with India and Afghanistan. Some Uighurs have fought as militants in Afghanistan and some are detained by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay. The central government sent an anti-terrorist task force to Xinjiang after yesterday's riot, Xinhua said.
 
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