The worst clashes since Tiananmen: At least 156 dead as ethnic unrest spread in China
By Peter Simpson
Last updated at 12:16 AM on 07th July 2009
Chinese authorities took no chances and poured armed police into the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar to try to stop further street battles.
There were also reports last night that the Communist government in Beijing had blocked access to the internet, not just in the troubled region but in the capital and in Shanghai, in an attempt to stop the protesters from communicating.
Deadly blows: This blurry video image of a man covered in blood, offers us a glimpse of the deadly ethnic violence in Urumqi, China, the capital of western China's Muslim region
Street battles: Troops fire tear gas in to the crowd of protesters
Echoing recent events in Iran, Some residents in Urumqi, Xinjiang province's regional capital, said they had been told there would be no internet access for 48 hours.
'Since yesterday evening I haven't been able to get online,' store owner Han Zhenyu told Reuters by telephone. The websites of the Urumqi city and Xinjiang regional governments were also down.
The unrest in Kashgar followed Sunday's ethnic violence in the provincial capital of Urumqi which left 156 dead and around 1,000 injured - the worst civil unrest since the massacre at Tiananmen Square 20 years ago.
Seeking comfort: Women injured in the riots break down in each others arms
Hundreds of protesters have been arrested as riot police patrol the two major cities, setting up road blocks and trawling the streets for 'ring leaders'.
Some 3,000 ethnic Uighurs took to the streets in Urumqi, burning and smashing vehicles, houses and shops.
They were demonstrating after deadly ethnic-based clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese in southern China last month.
Ethnic-based: The Muslim Uighurs (above) are seeking independence, sparking clashes with China's Han majority in Xinjiang
State television showed footage of bloodied Han Chinese who had allegedly been attacked during the protest by the mainly Muslim Uighurs, many of whom seek independence from China.
There was no immediate explanation of how so many died, but witnesses claimed police fired on protesters.
'First they [People's Armed Police] fired tear gas at the students outside Xinjiang University in Urumqi. Then they started beating them and shooting them with bullets. Big trucks arrived, and students were rounded up and arrested,' a 36-year-old restaurant worker told reporters.
On guard: Chinese soldiers wearing riot gear sit in the back of a military truck as they patrol the streets of Urumqi
Fatal toll: Dead bodies lie next to the corner of a building in Urumq. At least 156 people have been killed in the unrest
Other reports said some protesters had been crushed to death by armoured vehicles.
The state news agency, Xinhua, quoted a government statement blaming separatist Uighurs based abroad for orchestrating the violence. China labels some Uighur separatist groups as terrorist.
Xinjiang's top Communist Party official, Wang Lequan, called it 'a profound lesson learned in blood' and said authorities 'must take the most resolute and strongest measures to deal with the enemies' latest attempt at sabotage.'
Riots: A protest that began peacefully turned violent on Sunday as police fired shots in the air and used batons to disperse the crowd
On edge: Residents walk by Chinese paramilitary police on duty near a square closed after riots in Urumqi
Beijing maintains a tight grip on religious, political and cultural life in Xinjiang, and says economic expansion is bringing prosperity - but Uighurs claim the Chinese are committing cultural genocide.
'We are extremely saddened by the heavy-handed use of force by the Chinese security forces against the peaceful demonstrators,' said Alim Seytoff, of the Washington, D.C.-based Uighur American Association.
'We ask the international community to condemn China's killing of innocent Uighurs.' he said.
The unrest comes as the government ramps up security ahead of October's 60th anniversary of Communist rule.
WHY THE VIOLENCE? The demonstrators had been demanding justice for two Uighurs killed last month during a fight with Han Chinese co-workers at a factory in southern China.
Tensions between Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese are never far from the surface in Xinjiang, China's vast Central Asian buffer province, where militant Uighurs have waged a sporadic, violent separatist campaign.
Uighurs make up the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, but not in the capital of Urumqi, which has attracted large numbers of Han Chinese migrants. The city of 2.3 million is now about overwhelmingly Chinese - a source of frustration for native Uighurs.
Heavy presence: Police assemble opposite protestors in Urumqi, in China's western Xinjiang region
Many Uighurs yearn for independence for Xinjiang, a sprawling region rich in minerals and oil that borders eight Central Asian nations.
Critics say the millions of Han Chinese who have settled here in recent years are gradually squeezing the Turkic people out of their homeland.
But many Chinese believe the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gers) are backward and ungrateful for the economic development the Chinese have brought to the poor region.
Where the riots took place