China's Xinjiang under heavy security as stability urged

Other News Materials 12 July 2009 16:23 (UTC +04:00)
China's Xinjiang under heavy security as stability urged

An uneasy calm returned to China's riot-hit Urumqi on Sunday, with security forces concentrated in Uighur neighbourhoods as officials called for stability as a top priority in the restive region of Xinjiang, Reuters reported.

Shops were open and heavy traffic returned to the streets of Urumqi, the capital of the desert region on China's western frontier, after 184 died in ethnic violence a week ago when Uighurs rioted and attacked Han Chinese residents.

According to the official count, 137 of those killed were Han Chinese, who form the majority of China's 1.3 billion population, and 46 were Uighurs, the largely Muslim people of Xinjiang who share cultural bonds with Central Asian peoples.

"It feels like it's getting back to normal now but I feel there's going to be more problems," a Han Chinese vendor named Xia Lihai told Reuters. He said there was a risk of more Uighur protests once arrests, trials and sentencing are announced.

A fire at an oil refinery operated by PetroChina on the outskirts of the city was quickly extinguished on Sunday morning, but police and refinery officials ruled out a deliberate attack.

On Saturday, Zhou Yongkang, the nation's top leader in charge of security affairs, toured the southern Xinjiang cities of Kashgar and Hotan, calling for a "steel wall" of security to "win the tough war of maintaining Xinjiang's stability".

Authorities must "nip all hidden dangers in the bud", he said, and blamed the riot on "hostile forces" at home and abroad.

Local television aired constant appeals for ethnic harmony, while Internet access was still blocked throughout Xinjiang and telephone services were spotty.