Postcard from China

The stabbing death of an ethnic Uyghur worker casts a shadow over China's original boomtown.

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By Lin Di

SHENZHEN, China, Jan. 11, 2010Five days after the stabbing death of a Uyghur worker here, people are scared, and they don't want to talk. This is where a deadly clash between Uyghur and Chinese  factory workers erupted in June, sparking riots just days later and thousands of miles away that left nearly 200 people dead.

I asked a vendor in the Futian district for directions to the restaurant where the incident occurred. He pointed East and then whispered, "If you don't know either the attackers or the victim, then it would be best if you did not go there."

I headed east 100 meters (yards), then found the restaurant, Xinjiang Barbeque King.

The sign above the door was written in Chinese and Uyghur. Its glass door was shut tight. I peeked into the dark interiorit was empty, its owner having left hurriedly, in all likelihood, leaving unattended a rectangular barbeque grill in the open area in front of the restaurant.

Ten meters (yards) from the restaurant was a row of tall trees, with some branches recently removed, apparently to make room for new security cameras--all well hidden.

As I stood in front of the restaurant located on Baguashan Road, I noticed that Public Security patrol cars were cruising by regularly, the men inside keeping a close eye on the restaurant.

But local people seemed to know to avoid the place, as pedestrians veered to the other side of the street. Outside the restaurant, only a barbeque grill and a light were visible. The atmosphere was tense and eerie.

In a grocery store nearby, I struck up a conversation with a female clerk.  She was reluctant to talk at first. 

"Someone was knifed?" asked her.

"Something like that. You've heard also?" she answered.

"Yes. The restaurant was in business for a long time?"

"Yes," she replied.

"What happens next? Is it out of business for good?"

"I don't know."

"It's closed now," I said.

"There was an incident. He had to take care of things first... A man was knifed to death. His own employee was knifed to death. He had to take care of funeral arrangements first," she said.

"Do you think it will re-open?"

"I don't know," she replied.

Shenzhen activist Zhu Jianguo said authorities moved quickly this time, compared with the Shaoguan incident of June 2009when Uyghur and Han Chinese clashed in a Guangdong factory, sparking deadly riots in faraway Xinjiang.

"Before the July 5 [2009] clashes, the authorities weren't as sensitive to such incidents. Since the July 5 incident, they are more mindful. With the latest incident, they were worried that there'd be a chain reaction," he said.

"Of course, Shenzhen is not Shaoguan. The authorities in Shenzhen are much more sensitive than those in Shaoguan. They were faster in releasing the news, and they were pro-active in letting people know the facts. Revealing the truth is better than covering it up. They have learned their lesson."


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