China asked for independent Uighur probe on first anniversary

China security forces fanned out to keep Urumqi city in check on Monday, the first anniversary of deadly ethnic violence a year ago, flooding the streets.

China asked for independent Uighur probe on first anniversary

China security forces fanned out to keep Urumqi city in check on Monday, the first anniversary of deadly ethnic violence a year ago, flooding the streets with paramilitary police, some armed and others in riot gear.

At least 197 people died in the violence in what groups of Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people, call "East Turkistan".

On Monday, security personnel were concentrated in the city centre and the Uighur areas of Urumqi. Armed security forces and riot police patrolled in formation, and police vans made regular rounds in the area.

Residents came under the watchful eye of thousands of new security cameras and riot police, armed with guns, loudspeakers, shields and helmets.

China blamed pro-independence exile groups for "orchestrating the July 2009 unrest."

But Uighurs say the violence was sparked when police cracked down on peaceful demonstrations staged over a factory brawl the month before in southern China in which two Uighur migrant workers were killed.

"Calls for independent probe"


Rights watchdog Amnesty International called for an independent probe, citing "excessive use of force, mass arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and ill treatment" of prisoners during the security crackdown after the protests.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the overseas World Uighur Congress, said: "We call on the international community to pressure China to carry out an independent inquiry on the events of July 5 and end repression of Uighurs."

"There is too big a gap between the numbers of dead China has announced and the reports we have received," he said by telephone.

"Closings"


A propaganda effort to keep emotions in check matched the massive security drive, with state media promoting a push to boost economic growth that would ensure control in the restive but resource-rich and strategically located region.

The anniversary appeared to have been kept out of regional television, radio and print news, which featured stories on ethnic unity and local issues like flooding and a new airport.

Some Uighurs in Urumqi said they had been told to stay off the streets, and taxi drivers said customers were scarcer than usual with several government offices closing.

"We've been given the day off, to rest at home," said one physical education student on the eve of the anniversary.

Some street hawkers were also told not to come out for a few days and smaller mosques were closed, locals said, but businesses in a Uighur neighbourhood near some of the worst rioting opened up as usual, saying they couldn't afford to take a day off.

"Economic discrimination"


Beijing has pledged faster development to surmount tensions in the region, which has rich energy deposits, borders several central Asian nations and accounts for around one-sixth of Chinese territory.

The violence last year deepened economic woes for many in a city that has struggled to match the booming east coast.

"People are afraid to come here, there are fewer tourists, fewer travellers," said Han Shoujiang, an immigrant from Henan province behind the counter of his shop at the train station.

Job ads, which noted only ethnic Han should apply, were a reminder of the economic discrimination that fuelled the violence.

Many Uighurs resent Han Chinese rule, complaining they're marginalised economically and politically in their own land, while having to tolerate a rising influx of Han Chinese migrants.

Human rights groups accuse Beijing of using claims of "terrorism" as an excuse to crack down on peaceful pro-independence sentiment and expressions of Uighur identity.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Temmuz 2010, 16:26

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