Over 140 killed in ethnic riots in China’s northwest

July 6, 2009

(ChattahBox) — Ethnic violence erupted in China’s western region of Xinjiang leaving at least 140 people dead and more than 800 people injured, state media say as reported by China’s official Xinhua news agency. The death toll was expected to climb, according to a regional government spokesman. The government has blamed Sunday’s riots in Urumqi on exiled Muslim separatists. Uighur leaders say police fired on students.

The protest was reportedly motivated by a deadly fight between Uighurs and Han Chinese in southern China last month. The government said overseas separatists used the deaths of migrant Uighur workers in a factory brawl in southern China to fuel ethnic divisions. Uighurs (pronounced ( /uj.ˈgur/ ), are a Turkic Muslim group comprising about half of Xinjiang’s 20 million people. China’s constitution guarantees ethnic minorities equal rights and limited autonomy.  But the Uighurs have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens with unfair division of the region’s resources with the Han, who make up more than 90 percent of China’s 1.3 billion people.

China quickly deployed it’s typical solution to anything it deams politically troubling or unsanitary by cutting off internet access out of the troubled Xinjiang region. The Chinese government has previously shut down communications in Tibet and ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, to control the release of news through only official state media.

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