Race Relations in Urumqi Face Uncertain Future
14 July 2009
Tensions still remain between Han Chinese and Uighur Muslims following
last week's violence in Urumqi, the capital of China's far-western
|Damage from riots in Xinjiang region|
Chinese authorities say 184 people were
killed in the unrest, 137 of them were ethnic Han. Some Han and Uighur
people insist the riots were an aberration in an otherwise harmonious
interracial city, but other Uighurs accuse authorities of longstanding
discrimination against ethnic minority Muslims
Last week's widespread ethnic violence remains a fresh wound in this diverse city of 2 million people.
say the Uighur led riots, that began July 5, were the actions of a
small group of troublemakers and do not reflect the attitudes of
average Urumqi residents.
Maimaiti Aili is a Uighur man who owns a dry foods store on the edge of the Grand Bazaar.
He says the riots will not affect relations with his Han friends.
Aili explained, "On the day of the riots a lot of Han suppliers called me to see if I was safe."
a retired Han woman, agrees and has this to say, "Uighur-Han relations
are really good. I like to join in activities for retirees, like dance
classes. Lots of minorities participate in these activities too,
including Uighurs. They come to our house, we go to their house. They
are also really angry."
The image of racial harmony in Urumqi is
undercut by the government's need to deploy thousands of Chinese troops
to bring quiet to the city's streets.
Authorities arrested over 1,400 Uighurs following the riots.
Since Sunday, residents are required to carry their identity cards to comply with police checks.
|Men unable to enter mosque |
Mosques were closed, including for Friday prayers.
That day local Uighur authorities told people to pray at home.
this mosque where thousands usually come to worship on Fridays, men who
arrived ready to pray were unable to enter. They watched as soldiers
patrolled from the minaret.
Walking through Uighur
neighborhoods, people say they are still afraid to leave their
communities, both because of Han attacks and getting arrested by
authorities. Many are too fearful to be interviewed on camera.
38-year-old Uighur woman was only willing to be filmed if her identity
would be protected. She says Chinese authorities discriminate against
Uighurs because of their ethnicity and religion.
"China doesn't support our religion's customs and lifestyle, like women
covering their face, or men wearing a hat or having a beard. Just for
this they will arrest us."
The anonymous woman also accuses the Chinese media of downplaying Uighur injuries and deaths.
|Chinese Police Patrolling in Xinjiang region|
claims, "Lots of young Uighur people died on the 6th and 7th, but the
government doesn't make it public or broadcast this news."
China's official death toll from the riots now stands at 184, 137 of whom were ethnic Han.
is no indication if this number includes the days following July 5
when Han mobs carried out revenge attacks on Uighurs.
imam of the Liu Daowan mosque Obul Hashim Haxim, who is also a Chinese
parliament member, told reporters the rioters were not acting in the
spirit of Islam.
When asked if Uighurs were treated unfairly in China, he firmly disagreed.