Updated at 12:45 p.m. EDT on 2013-04-10
A seven-year-old Uyghur boy has been hacked to death by a Han Chinese male suspect in an incident that has ignited ethnic tensions in China’s restive northwestern Xinjiang region, according to police and local residents.
Uyghur residents of the boy’s village in Pichan (in Chinese, Shanshan) county in Xinjiang’s Turpan prefecture angry over the March 21 killing attempted to attack Han Chinese homes in the village, prompting a police crackdown, sources said.
Authorities have arrested a 52-year old Han Chinese man in connection with the suspected murder, according to police.
The boy, Enkerjan Ariz, was playing with two other children near a brick kiln run by Han Chinese residents in the township’s Dighar village before he was killed, a senior police official in the neighboring Lukchun village told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“One Han Chinese worker from the brick kiln thought they had come to steal something and he caught one of them,” the senior police official Ahmet Ismail said.
“The other two ran away, and the Han Chinese took the child into his home and killed him.”
A senior police official at Dilghar contacted by RFA with the first name Pettar confirmed that the boy had been hacked but refused to give further details.
Relatives and Uyghur residents of Dighar seeking revenge over the death marched in anger to the homes of the Han Chinese near the brick kiln and vandalized the houses, prompting a 10-day crackdown by the authorities.
Tensions run high between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang, where China’s worst ethnic violence in decades broke out in 2009.
“Some 150 relatives of the deceased tried to attack the Han Chinese homes around the brick kiln to get revenge,” Ahmet Ismail said.
Authorities stopped them and detained 10 people who led the attempted attack, later releasing them after the situation calmed down, he said, adding that there were no injuries but some windows were broken in the incident.
According to one resident, authorities released the 10 Uyghurs after Enkerjan Ariz’s family refused to bury the boy until they were freed.
Authorities stayed in the village to monitor the situation and prevent further violence while, according to Uyghur custom, the family held ceremonies to mark the third and seventh days after Enkerjan Ariz’s death.
One resident said Chinese security forces were rushed to the village and police put up round-the-clock patrols.
“The situation was very tense for about ten days,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
One resident said the incident had stirred up Uyghur residents’ anger over Han Chinese migration to the area and pollution and destruction of land from the brick kilns run by Han Chinese.
Uyghurs in Xinjiang say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness despite China's ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Dolkun Kamberi. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had an unnamed Dighar police officer refusing to comment.