Chinese officials have launched a sweeping crackdown in an
effort to keep a lid on ethnic clashes
Uighurs defy Urumqi mosque closure:
Several mosques in the riot-hit Chinese city of Urumqi have opened
for Friday prayers, countering earlier notices that all places of
worship would be closed following clashes that left more than 150
Uighur ‘MOTHER’ looms large
Xinjiang: China's 'other Tibet'
Thousands of Chinese troops are patrolling the streets of Urumqi,
capital of the far western Xinjiang region, in an effort to maintain
the peace between the city's ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese.
Clashes between the groups have paralysed the city since Sunday when
a street protest by Uighur demonstrators turned into some of the
bloodiest ethnic violence seen in China in years.
Chinese officials say the violence has left more than 150 people
dead and around a thousand injured.
Reporting from Urumqi on Thursday, Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan said
that while a strong military presence remained, the city appeared to
be returning to some kind of normality.
However, she said tensions remained high although there had been no
reports of further clashes as had occurred on previous days.
Long convoys of armoured cars and troop trucks have been patrolling
the streets of Urumqi, with a particularly heavy presence in Uighur
neighborhoods of the predominantly Han Chinese city.
Army helicopters have also been conducting regular flights over the
The patrols and an overnight curfew are part of a sweeping crackdown
ordered by the Chinese authorities in an effort to keep a lid on the
More than 1,000 people are reported to have been arrested and on
Wednesday a senior official warned that anyone found guilty of
murder would be executed.
"To those who committed crimes with cruel means, we will execute
them," Li Zhi, the Communist party chief for Urumqi, told reporters.
Correspondent Steve Chao, reporting from Beijing, said China's
leaders appeared to be pushing for a tough response to the violence
and more people were likely to be arrested in the coming days as
authorities round up anyone they suspect could stir up unrest.
On Thursday reports said an outspoken economist who had championed
Uighur rights had disappeared after presumably being arrested by
Friends of Ilham Tohti said he had called them earlier to say police
had given him formal notice to say he would be detained.
On Wednesday Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, cut short a visit to
the G8 summit in Italy, returning home to personally oversee the
government's handling of the crisis.
Since Sunday's riot tensions have remained high in Urumqi with mobs
wielding makeshift weapons roaming the city and many residents
fearful for their safety.
On Tuesday thousands of Han Chinese rampaged through Urumqi's
streets, smashing Uighur-owned shops and stalls and calling for
revenge against the Uighurs who they say started the unrest.
Groups of Uighurs also took to the streets and government forces
fired tear gas at the crowds before ordering the curfew in an effort
to maintain control of the city.
Chinese authorities have blamed Uighurs protesters for Sunday's
unrest, but have also condemned members of the Han Chinese community
for stirring up tensions in the wake of the riot.
Uighur groups say repressive policies by China combined with years
of mass migration to Xinjiang by Han Chinese, China's largest ethnic
group, have stoked ethnic tensions and sown the seeds for violence.
The Turkic-speaking Uighurs have long complained of repression and
discrimination under Chinese rule, but Beijing insists it has
brought prosperity to Xinjiang, a region that has seen annual growth
rates of up to 17 per cent in recent years.
On Wednesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, called
for an end to the violence.
"Our expectation is for these incidents that have reached the level
of savagery to be rapidly stopped," he said.
The prime minister and Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister,
made separate calls to China to bring "those responsible to account"
in a transparent manner.
"We are following the events with great concern, worry and sadness,"
According to Chinese state media, Sunday's clashes erupted after a
demonstration over an industrial dispute in southern China in which
two Uighurs died, turned violent.
Beijing singled out Rebiya Kadeer, head of the World Uighur
Congress, for "masterminding" the unrest.
But Kadeer, a Uighur businesswoman who was jailed for years in China
before being released into exile in the US, has rejected the
accusations, saying from Washington DC that they were "completely