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China Muslims riot, 10 die - The Telegraph

John Leicester ()
11 February 1997

Title : China Muslims riot, 10 die
Author : John Leicester
Publication : The Telegraph
Date : February 11, 1997

Chinese police fired warning shots over crowds of young Muslims who
beat people to death and torched cars during pro-independence riots
in far west China, a police official said today.

The riots last Wednesday and Thursday were the worst to hit Yining,
in the restive province of Xinjiang, since the 1949 Communist
takeover, said the officer with the Yining city police.

He said 10 people, including Chinese and members of local ethnic
groups, were killed and that others, including police officers,
were injured. Some of those killed were beaten to death, said the
officer reached by telephone from Beijing.

Ming Pao, a Hong Kong daily, said more than 10 Chinese were killed
and their bodies set on fire.

The police officer said security forces arrested 400 to 500 people,
some of whom were later released. "Three cars were set on fire and
the police fired shots into the air to calm the crowds," he said.
"It's been put down," the officer added.

He said the rioters were Uighurs, Xinjiang's Muslim majority,
demanding independence for the region. Clashes are periodically
reported in Xinjiang, where the Turkic-speaking Uighurs face an
influx of ethnic Chinese.

"There was a protest... It was illegal," said an official with
Xinjiang's provincial government, who gave his surname, Liu.
"Illegal protests are curbed." Liu, reached in Urumqi, Xinjiang's
provincial capital, also said calm had been restored in Yining,
near the Kazakhstan border, 500 kilometers from Urumqi.

Liu said that because of the Chinese New Year holiday he had no
more details. Ming Pao quoted an unidentified Chinese man in Yining
as saying 1,000 Muslims, mostly aged 17 and 18, beat up, killed and
burned their victims before the police quashed the violence.

Ismail Cengiz, the secretary general of a pro-independence Uighur
group based in Istanbul, Turkey, claimed that 200 Muslim rioters
and about 100 Chinese soldiers were killed. The report could not be

Cengiz, a Uighur, said the riots started when Chinese security
forces arrested a group of women reading prayers in a house in
Yining on February 4, a Muslim holy night. Rioters then marched on
the police station, said Cengiz, of the East Turkestan Immigrants

The Uighurs had their own republic of East Turkestan from 1944 to
1949. Xinjiang is now one of five autonomous regions of China.

Covering one-sixth of China, Xinjiang has a population of 16.6
million, of whom 38 per cent are ethnic Chinese, according to
Chinese figures.

Chinese authorities acknowledge there is unrest in the region. In
a review of 1996, Abdulahat Abdurixit, chairman of the Xinjiang
regional government, claimed successes in fighting separatists and
vowed continued crackdowns.

"We severely attacked enemy forces' crazed violent activities,
annihilating the enemy's effectiveness," he said in a January 25
speech to Xinjiang's legislature.

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