Angry Uighurs defy Chinese police

Tuesday, 7 July 2009 06:33 UK

Uighur women and children in Urumqi, 07/07

Armed police are out in force in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital

New protests have flared in Urumqi, two days after 156 people died and 800 were injured in the western Chinese city.

At least 200 Uighurs faced off against police in Urumqi on Tuesday following news that 1,434 people were arrested in connection with Sunday’s riots.

Trouble also spread outside of Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, with protests on Monday near a mosque in Kashgar.

Beijing blames ethnic Muslim Uighurs for the violence, but exiled Uighurs say police fired on students.

‘Extraordinary defiance’

The BBC’s Quentin Sommerville, on the streets of Urumqi, says at least 200 people – mostly elderly women or women with children – have taken to the streets, complaining that their relatives had been arbitrarily arrested.

Quentin Somerville
Quentin Sommerville, Urumqi
Many hundreds of people, mainly women, have come into the streets.

They are screaming and shouting, “Give us our freedom, give us back our men.”

The police are running at a trot with batons and shields. The Uighur men and women are standing their ground. Some are beginning to disperse.

This is a city where the Chinese authorities say they have regained control, but the scenes going on around me tell an entirely different story.

Foreign journalists witnessed the protest during a tour led by government officials showing them parts of the city where shops and homes had been destroyed in Sunday’s violence.

Our correspondent says it was an extraordinary act of defiance.

He says riot police – armed with rifles and tear gas – charged the women and surrounded them. But they sat on the ground in defiance of orders from policemen to disperse.

He says the protesters finally began leaving as the journalists were ushered away from the area.

But policemen were waiting in the side streets, he said, and it was unclear what had happened to the women.

Mass arrests

The mass arrests have been going on since Sunday’s clashes.

Reports are surfacing that police have been going from house to house, rounding up young men for questioning.

The Chinese authorities say they have arrested the “ringleaders” of the protests, but that they are still seeking others.

Violence in China’s restive western region of Xinjiang has left at least 140 people dead and more than 800 people injured, state media say


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