Chinese security forces gather in a square in Urumqi, western China’s Xinjiang province, Wednesday, July 8, 2009. China’s president cut short a G8 summit trip to rush home Wednesday after ethnic tensions soared in Xinjiang territory, and the government flooded the area with security forces in a bid to quell emotions in the wake of a massive riot that left at least 156 dead. AP Photo
Military patrols marched in formation past the deserted store-fronts, chanting “Defend the nation, Defend the people”.
(AGI) – Urumqi (China), 8 Jul. – Following the enactment of a curfew, thousands of soldiers covered the city of Urumqi – capital of the Xinjiang region of China – in order to calm a wave of inter-ethnic violence which began this Sunday. With a heavy display of force, thousands of soldiers entered Urumqi, during the same hours in which Hu Jintao, with an unprecedented gesture, left the G8 summit in Italy to return to his native country. While Chinese Liberation Army helicopters surveyed from above, soldiers and police officers entered and secured the city.
The forces were armed with automatic weapons, many of them clad in riot-proof gear, and the soldiers quickly took control of the abandoned city streets. During the curfew hours, from 9pm to 8am, military patrols marched in formation past the deserted store-fronts, chanting “Defend the nation, Defend the people”. The situation has yet to pacify entirely. Skirmished continue between the Han population and the Uyghur of the Xinjiang region. According to international media, two Uyghur were assaulted separately by mobs of Han Chinese.
In one of the incidents, nearly 20 Han men armed with sticks assaulted an Uyghur man in the city centre. The attack was stopped after several minutes, when security forces were able to disperse the crowd. In the second incident, a group of Han men passed three Uyghur men on the street and began following them. Two were able to escape, while the third was caught and assaulted by the crowd, which chanted “Hit, Hit”. The victim was kicked and shoved by various men and women, before police were able to save him. There are rumours of others dead. 156 victims were registered Sunday.
Meanwhile, Beijing has blocked tourism in the Xinjiang region, and has blocked access to the internet site Facebook within the country. The website, the most popular social networking site world-wide, has been inaccessible for some hours now. The block is an addition to some restrictions already enacted Sunday, immediately following attacks, such as the ban of Twitter. The country has also blocked access to many foreign sites, most of which are running exceptionally slowly, while sites such as Youtube remain entirely closed. China has the most internet users in the world (more than 300 million) though it enacts amongst the heaviest net censorship, especially during moments of political tension.