Security Clampdown on Uyghurs

Chinese authorities move quickly to stop ethnic tensions from erupting again.

urumqi-police-305.jpg A Chinese paramilitary policeman carries a gun with a bayonet as he stands guard outside the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, July 14, 2009.

SHENZHEN—Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have stepped up security measures, especially those targeting ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs, following the fatal stabbing of a Uyghur man last week, officials said.

An official who answered the phone at the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region representative office in Shenzhen said the authorities had tightened security in the vicinity of the restaurant where the Uyghur waiter was attacked.

Police were patrolling the area at regular intervals, and the restaurant where the stabbing had occurred was closed and sealed off to the public, he said.

"Yes, [security] has been stepped up, I'm sure. Of course it has been stepped up," the official said.

"Yes, there are [restrictions on Uyghurs traveling to Guangdong]. People with a Uyghur identity are much more sensitive than Han Chinese, so they are going to be subject to stricter checks."

Widespread measures

Exiled Uyghur groups said the controls on internal travel by Uyghurs were widespread.

"The controls operate between Zhuhai and Guangzhou," World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Rashit said. "They are also operating from Guangzhou out to the smaller towns nearby."

"There is increased surveillance of Uyghurs," he said. "Uyghurs in other Chinese cities right now aren't being allowed to buy plane or train tickets to Shenzhen, or anywhere in Guangdong province."

Rashit said the stabbing wasn't a simple crime, but reflected broader views among Han Chinese and discrimination against Uyghurs.

He called on Beijing to avoid playing down the incident, and to look instead for the roots of the ethnic violence between Han and Uyghurs.

He said that without improved policies towards Uyghurs from Beijing, such incidents would continue.

The owner of a Xinjiang restaurant in the Lo Wu district of Shenzhen, right next to the internal immigration border with Hong Kong, said this wasn't the first stabbing incident he had heard of in which Uyghurs were the victims.

Shenzhen police have arrested seven Han Chinese men in connection with the stabbing incident, police sources confirmed at the weekend.

The stabbing echoed an ethnic clash at a Guangdong factory last June that triggered deadly ethnic violence in July in the Xinjiang regional capital, Urumqi.

The clash between Uyghur and Han workers at a factory in Shaoguan left two Uyghur workers dead and 118 injured.

Faster reaction

Shenzhen-based activist Zhu Jianguo said the authorities had moved quickly this time, compared with the Shaoguan incident, releasing official media reports confirming the incident and the related arrests.

"Before the July 5 [2009] clashes, the authorities weren't as sensitive to such incidents. Since the July 5 incident, they are more mindful," Zhu said.

"With the latest incident, they were worried that there'd be a chain reaction," he said.

"The authorities in Shenzhen are much more sensitive than those in Shaoguan," Zhu said.

"They were faster in releasing the news, and they were proactive in letting people know the facts. Revealing the truth is better than covering it up. They have learned their lesson."

However, security remains tight in Xinjiang in the wake of the violence, with Internet and telephone services extremely limited for most of the region's 20 million people.

An employee who answered the phone at China Southern Airlines denied that there were any existing controls on Uyghurs taking domestic flights. But she said controls were in place for Uyghurs seeking to travel abroad.

"The only control is that Uyghurs wanting to buy plane tickets for overseas travel must first produce a letter of approval from their local police station before they will be issued with a ticket," she said.

Uyghurs, a distinct and mostly Muslim ethnic group indigenous to Xinjiang, have long complained of religious, political, and cultural oppression under Chinese rule, and tensions have simmered there for years.

Xinjiang has been plagued in recent years by bombings, attacks, and riots that the Chinese authorities blame on Uyghur separatists.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Lin Di and in Cantonese by Hai Nan. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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Jan 12, 2010 02:26 PM

You idiot, a handful of communist China forcibly occupied the Uyghurs'land then you imposed the so-called inhumane actions on these humble people. At the same time, you, animal regime tell the world; they are terrorists such as Tibetan people fall similar fate. Chinese Communist government must reconsider where is their ethics???