A Uyghur student at the Beijing-based Central University for Nationalities has been seriously assaulted by his Han Chinese roommates, sparking protests and an order by university authorities for the two ethnic groups to be housed separately in a bid to ease tensions, according to a student.
Memetjan Ali, a third-year student majoring in Uyghur language and literature, was beaten last Wednesday, a day after the worst violence in four years occurred in China's northwestern Xinjiang region—home to the mostly Muslim minority Uyghurs who complain of discrimination by the country’s majority Han Chinese.
Memetjan Ali was watching television with his three Han Chinese roommates in their dormitory when one of them approached him and squeezed his neck, one of his Uyghur classmates told RFA's Uyghur Service.
Memetjan Ali tried to leave the dorm but he was prevented from doing so, with the other Chinese classmates also joining in and assaulting and abusing him.
"One of the Chinese boys abused him with vulgar words and suddenly punched his face. At that moment, another one hit his head with a chair from his back while one of them held him firmly," the classmate said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The seriously injured Memetjan Ali has been hospitalized with his condition reported as stable, but the incident has raised concerns among his Uyghur university mates.
Some of them gathered at the university's grounds, demanding justice and urgent medical attention for him, the classmate said.
The three Chinese students were detained, but two of them were released after questioning, he said. It is not immediately clear whether charges will be pressed on any one of them.
The university authorities have paid for Memetjan Ali’s medical expenses, according to nurses in the hospital.
To ease tensions at the university, the authorities decided to have Uyghurs and Han Chinese stay separately in the dormitories.
“Now Uyghur students are staying with Uyghur students in the dormitory and we feel more secure than before,” said one Uyghur female student.
But another student said: “That doesn’t mean we are safe."
"We are still living in a Chinese city, studying in a Chinese school, and we are outnumbered.”
RFA's Mandarin Service called up the university to inquire about the alleged assault but a staffer said, "We are not clear what's going on."
The university's students department, when contacted, said, "We never heard of this incident."
Exile Uyghur activists linked the incident to the April 23 violence in Siriqbuya (Selibuya) township in Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture in which 21 people were killed.
Chinese authorities blamed the violence on Uyghur "terrorists," but rights groups and experts familiar with the region say Beijing exaggerates a terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against the Uyghur minority.
The charges leveled against the Uyghurs have intensified Han Chinese hatred against the ethnic group, Uyghur activists said.
“Recent Chinese state media’s lies about the violence in Kashgar have increased ethnic hatred again," said Adil Abbas, a Uyghur activist and vice-president of the Uyghur Canadian Society.
"They heavily painted Uyghurs with terrorism charges to cover government violence against the Uyghurs, increasing hatred against the Uyghurs," he said.
"It is obvious that the dominant force of hate crimes such as what happened in the Central University for Nationalities is the Chinese government itself because their state-sponsored media always lies and slanders about the Uyghurs,” Adil Abbas said.
Chinese state media reported Monday that 11 more suspects have been arrested in addition to eight held on the day the Siriqbuya violence occurred.
The state media had charged that the violence erupted after community officials on patrol were attacked by Uyghur "terrorists" armed with knives at a house.
Reinforcements were called, and in the ensuing shootout six of the suspects were killed, state media said. Others were killed either after being slashed by the suspects or burned to death when the house was torched, state media reports said.
In total, 16 Uyghurs, three Han Chinese, and two Mongolians were killed in the Siriqbuya violence—the worst since ethnic clashes between Uyghurs and Han Chinese rocked Xinjiang's regional capital of Urumqi in 2009, killing nearly 200.
State news agency Xinhua, citing Xinjiang police, said on Monday that the suspects were from a "terrorist group" that was founded in September 2012 and that the deadly clashes broke out when they were caught making explosives.
The report said they watched terrorist video clips, had tested explosive devices, and planned to "do something big" in the densely populated areas of Kashgar in the summer.
"The claims of terrorism are suspected of being an excuse to oppress Uyghurs," Dilshat Rexit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, said in an email to Agence France-Presse.
He called on Chinese authorities to publish an independent investigation into their accusations of terrorism, echoing an earlier call by the United States which was dismissed by Beijing as evidence of a "double standard."
A Uyghur farmer in Siriqbuya township told RFA's Uyghur Service that some of those arrested were from the township's Number Three Village.
"They also arrested the uncle and son of a Uyghur man who was [allegedly] involved in the fight. The arrested person’s name was Ahmet Turadin, but I don't know his son’s name," the farmer said.
"Another person who was arrested was renting a house next door to that of Ahmet Turadin."
Security has also been bolstered in Kashgar, with one Uyghur lady who returned to her village from Kashgar late Sunday saying checkpoints had been set up along the highways.
Reported by Rukiye Turdush and Jilil Musha for RFA's Uyghur Service and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma and Feng Xiaoming. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.