Chinese Security Forces Prepare For Anniversary Of Urumqi Riots

Chinese security forces have fanned out across the far Western city of Urumqi to ensure peace on the first anniversary of ethnic riots that killed almost 200 people. Armed police and riot squads patrolled the city in formation, concentrating especially on areas where local Uighur Muslims live. Last year, long-running tensions between the Uighurs and immigrant Han Chinese erupted into days of violence which left at least 197 dead and 1700 injured.

Chinese security forces have fanned out across the far Western city of Urumqi to ensure peace on the first anniversary of ethnic riots that killed almost 200 people.

 A mob of Han Chinese most of them carrying clubs run along a street minutes before a clash between groups of ethnic Uygur and Han Chinese in Urumqi  Photo: EPA

Armed police and riot squads patrolled the city in formation, concentrating especially on areas where local Uighur Muslims live.

Last year, long-running tensions between the Uighurs and immigrant Han Chinese erupted into days of violence which left at least 197 dead and 1700 injured.

After a night in which Uighurs burned Han Chinese shops to the ground and clubbed passengers to death on board public buses, mobs of Han Chinese took to the streets armed with makeshift weapons baying for revenge.

Since then, the city, which is split 70 per cent Han Chinese and 30 per cent Uighur, has existed in a state of apartheid, with tensions between the two populations still fraught.

To guarantee peace across the wider region of Xinjiang, the Chinese government has near doubled the security budget to 2.9 billion yuan (£281 million) this year. Around 5,000 extra police have been drafted and almost 40,000 riot-proof surveillance cameras have been installed, 8,000 of which in Urumqi.

The 'Eagle-Eye' high definition cameras, installed on buses and in schools as well as on the streets, can capture clear images even at night.

Armed police with helmets and shields marched on the edges of People's Square in the heart of the city, where the fighting began last year.

The square was shut down, allegedly for "renovations".

"It's really tense today. Look at the streets. There aren't many people there and normally it would be bustling at this time of day," said Liu Yan, a 50-year-old Han Chinese taxi driver.

"Uighurs, they probably don't dare to come out because it's the sensitive anniversary date. As a cab driver, I would think twice before I picked up a Uighur, because I'm still scared," he added.

"We're still friends after the riots, though we don't meet in public anymore," he said. "We meet at their homes."

Uighurs have called for a full investigation into last year's violence, saying that they have been unfairly demonised by the Chinese media. Few Uighur voices have been heard since the riots, since the authorities blocked internet access, text messages and international phone calls in and out of the region. Some restrictions have only just been lifted.

The US State department said China should be more transparent in its handling of the court cases relating to the riots. "We have urged China to ensure that the legal rights of all Chinese citizens are respected accordance with international standards of due process," said a spokesman.

Source : Telegraph