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'20 Uighurs killed' in China clash / agencies on Hotan incident/ENG

2011. július 19./english.aljazeera.net/ITN/TibetPress

Xinjiang official calls incident a "terrorist" attack and says four
people including a police officer were killed.

Hotan is a Uighur-majority town of some 300,000 people that stretches
along the ancient Silk Route

Twenty protesters from China's minority Uighur community were killed
in a clash with police in the ethnically tense northwestern region of
Xinjiang, a Uighur exile group has said.

State media quoted an official in the region calling Monday's clash a
"terrorist" attack and said four people including a police officer
were killed when a crowd set upon a police station in the remote city
of Hotan.

But the Germany-based exile group, World Uyghur Congress, disputed the
official account of Monday's clash.

It said on Tuesday that 14 Uighurswere beaten to death and six shot
dead when police opened fire on a peaceful protest, leading to
fighting between the two sides. It said 70 others were arrested.

The two accounts could not be independently verified.

Beijing, wary of instability and the threat to the Communist party's
grip on power, often blames what it calls violent separatist groups in
Xinjiang for attacks on police or other government targets, saying
they work with al Qaeda or Central Asian fighters to bring about an
independent state called East Turkestan.

"It is certain that it was a terrorist attack," said Hou Hanmin, chief
of the regional information office.

"But as for which organisation is behind this, we are still
investigating. The number of people killed and casualties will be
announced soon."

Many Uighurs - a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people native to the region -
chafe under rule from Beijing and restrictions on their language,
culture and religion. They make up less than half of Xinjiang's
population after decades of immigration by the majority Han from other
parts of China.

'Separatist' attack

The Global Times, a popular tabloid owned by the Chinese Communist
party's mouthpiece, the People's Daily, quoted Hou as saying that the
rioters "carried explosive devices and grenades."

"They first broke into the offices of the local administration of
industry and commerce and the taxation bureau that are close to the
police station," the report cited Hou as saying. "They injured two
persons there.

"When they realised the targets were wrong, they started to attack the
police station from the ground floor to the second floor where they
showed a flag with separatist messages," Hou was quoted as saying.

The attackers set the police station on fire before killing hostages
during a stand-off with armed police, she was quoted as saying. State
television said the latest incident took place when a mob attacked a
police station, taking hostages and setting it on fire.

Two hostages, a paramilitary policeman and a guard died in the
violence, as well as several of the attackers, it reported. Six
hostages were freed.

The Global Times said the national counter-terrorism office had
dispatched a team to Xinjiang.

Longstanding conflict

Dilxat Raxit of the World Uyghur Congress said he believed the death
toll and the number of injured were likely to escalate.

"All forms of protests by Uighurs are met with violent crackdowns. The
clash escalated only after the crackdown and the Chinese government
later referred to it as act of 'terrorism'," he said. "The Chinese
government consistently uses the term 'terrorism' to quieten down the
demands of the Uighurs."

In March 2008, hundreds marched through the weekly bazaar in a protest
the city government blamed on ethnic separatists.

Chinese censors blocked searches on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like
microblogging services, on the attack. Search results for the Chinese
renderings of "Xinjiang unrest" and "Hotan" showed a page that said,
"according to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results
are not displayed".

A vast swath of territory, accounting for one-sixth of China's land
mass, Xinjiang holds oil, gas and coal deposits and borders
Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Central Asia.

In July 2009, Xinjiang's capital Urumqi was rocked by violence between
majority Han Chinese and minority Uighurs that killed nearly 200
people.

Since then, China has executed nine people it blamed for instigating
the riots, detained and prosecuted hundreds and ramped up spending on
security, according to state media and overseas rights groups.

China has earmarked billions of dollars for the relatively poorer
southern part of Xinjiang, where Hotan is located, to try to soothe
income disparities that have contributed to ethnic violence.

 

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