Links to Kyrgyzstan Cut

Chinese officials shut down transportation services between northwestern China and Kyrgyzstan.
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Kyrgyz opposition supporters protest against the government in Bishkek, April 7, 2010.
Kyrgyz opposition supporters protest against the government in Bishkek, April 7, 2010.

HONG KONG—Road and public transportation links have been suspended between China's restive northwestern region of Xinjiang and neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where the president was ousted last week following deadly riots across the country, residents said.

"After the riots in Kyrgyzstan, the international bus service running from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to Kyrgyzstan has been suspended," said a resident of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, who is a member of the Turkic-speaking and mostly Muslim Uyghur minority who live in Xinjiang.

"The Xinjiang foreign transport department and road transport authority has been suspended until Kyrgyzstan's international transport operations resume," said Bishkek-based Uyghur Azat Khasim.

"Uyghur traders have expressed concern and a general hope for long-term stability in Kyrgyzstan," he said.

As many as 4,000 Uyghur businessmen and women reside in Kyrgyzstan, while Bishkek's Madina Bazaar is home to around 2,000 Uyghur traders, Khasim said.

According to official Kyrgyz statistics, an estimated 50,000 Uyghurs live in Kyrgyzstan, although some Uyghur groups put the number as high as 250,000.

Khasim said the Kyrgyz capital had returned more or less to normal life this week following several days of rioting, looting and clashes between opposition supporters and security forces.

"The situation in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek has gradually become calm," Azat Khasim said. "From the 12th onwards all the banks and schools are re-opening."

"More of the Uyghur markets and restaurants are re-opening, too," he said.

A Turkish resident of Bishkek said that some Turkish businesses had suffered damage in last week's unrest.

Khasim said that one ethnic Uyghur resident of Bishkek, Parhat Ahmad, was killed during last week's violence, which saw the ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who remained defiant Tuesday, addressing a 3,000-strong rally in his native town of Dzhalal-Abad.

Bakiyev says that the opposition had been preparing a coup for a long time.

"I do not recognize these actions," Bakiyev told Russian media. "I was elected by the people of Kyrgyzstan. That is why what this interim government adopts is illegitimate."

Strong ties

Kyrgyzstan and China share a 1,000 kilometer land border, with two main border crossings at the Irkestan and Torugart passes.

The XUAR's exports to Kyrgyzstan were valued at around U.S. $2.97 billion in 2009, with Kyrgyzstan replacing Kazakhstan for the first time as the number-one export market for the Uyghur region.

According to the World Trade Organization, Kyrgyzstan imported U.S. $14.7 billion in goods from China in 2008.

Khasim said that some Han Chinese shops were looted and burned during the unrest in the Goyong and Tatan areas.

"Only one Uyghur restaurant was looted and burned," he added. "Its name is Haway."

Thousands of angry supporters of Bakiyev heard him deliver a fiery speech in his stronghold of Jalalabad in a defiant rebuttal to the interim government of Roza Otunbayeva, which has demanded his arrest.

While the interim government blames Bakiyev for the bloodshed, the ousted leader and his supporters insist it was the fault of the anti-Bakiyev forces who have seized power in Bishkek.

Assistant Secretary Robert Blake said at a briefing at the U.S. State Department Monday that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had pledged U.S. support for the "efforts of the Kyrgyz administration to resolve peacefully Kyrgyzstan’s current political problems and renew its path to democracy and prosperity and human rights."

Blake was to arrive in Kyrgyzstan early on Wednesday to meet with members of Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government to listen to steps they plan to take in organizing democratic elections during the course of their six-month interim administration.

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished Central Asian country which emerged as an independent nation following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, is divided along ethnic, class, and clan lines.

The Tian Shan, or Tengritagh, mountains mark a sharp divide between the rural southerners—who are more religiously and culturally conservative—and the Russian-leaning north, which includes the capital, Bishkek.

The same mountain range extends across the border into the Uyghur homeland of Xinjiang.

China has voiced concern about events in the neighboring republic, saying it is "deeply concerned" about the situation in Kyrgyzstan, which borders its troubled Muslim region of Xinjiang in the northwest.

Chinese official media have given full coverage to the unrest, and Internet news reports and commentary on the topic have remained apparently uncensored.

Original reporting in Uyghur by Mehriban. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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