Image: Urumqi, China
AP
More roads reopened and shops unlocked their doors in Urumqi on Monday, but sporadic incidents reflected the underlying tensions in the city in western China where 184 people died in recent ethnic unrest.
updated 7/14/2009 2:23:20 PM ET 2009-07-14T18:23:20

Paramilitary police blocked access Tuesday to a Uighur neighborhood in Urumqi near where two Uighurs were shot to death a day earlier, laying spikes across the road and barring nonresidents from entering.

Security was tightened across the tense capital of China's western Xinjiang region, where a spasm of ethnic violence earlier this month left at least 184 dead and another 1,680 injured in the worst unrest China has seen in decades.

On Monday, after several days of relative calm, the government said police shot and killed two of three Uighurs who had attacked a fourth man with long knives and batons.

It was the first time the government has acknowledged its security forces opened fire since the violence hit Urumqi on July 5.

On Tuesday, paramilitary police with shields and rifles lay a band of spikes across a road to block access to an alley of dingy apartment blocks — near where the shootings occurred — where many poorer minority Uighurs live. They continued to block roads leading into the main Uighur district near the Grand Bazaar market.

A police van parked at the mouth of the alley blared messages in the Uighur language, attacking Rebiya Kadeer, the prominent exiled Uighur activist whom the Chinese government blames for inciting the unrest. It has not provided evidence.

Kadeer, who lives in Washington, D.C., has denied the charges and blames government policies for causing the violence.

Police kill two
In the latest violence, the city government said three Uighur men, who were attacking a fourth Uighur with long knives and batons, turned on police who tried to break up the fight. The police shot and killed two of the men when they ignored warnings, the government said. The third man was wounded and taken to a nearby hospital, where his condition was unknown.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Tuesday rejected allegations that the unrest would hurt Beijing's ties with Muslim countries, saying the violence was not based on religion.

"If they have a clear idea about true nature of the incident, they would understand China's policies concerning religion and religious issues and understand the measures we have taken," he said at a regular news conference.

In the Arab world, posters on an Islamist Web site suggested killing Han Chinese in the Middle East, noting large communities of ethnic Chinese laborers work in Algeria and Saudi Arabia.

China has poured tens of thousands of security forces into Urumqi (pronounced uh-ROOM-chee), and its leaders have sought to play down tensions between the ethnic groups.

The July 5 violence began when Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gers) who were protesting last month's deaths of fellow factory workers in a brawl in southern China clashed with police. Crowds scattered throughout the city, attacking ethnic Han Chinese and burning cars.

Of the 184 reported killed July 5, the government has said 137 were Han Chinese and 46 were Uighurs, along with one minority Hui Muslim. Uighurs say they believe many more from their ethnic group died in the government crackdown.

The Uighurs, who number 9 million in Xinjiang, have complained about an influx of Han Chinese and government restrictions on their Muslim religion. They accuse the Han of discrimination and the Communist Party of trying to erase their language and culture.

Han Chinese, many of whom were encouraged to emigrate to Xinjiang by the government, believe the Uighurs should be grateful for the region's rapid economic development, which has brought schools, airports, and oil wells to the sprawling, rugged region the size of Texas.

Uighur economist dissappears
Meanwhile, more than 100 Chinese writers and intellectuals have signed a letter calling for the release of Ilham Tohti, an outspoken Uighur economist who disappeared from his Beijing home last week and has apparently been detained.

Tohti had in recent months sharpened his critique of problems in Xinjiang on Uighurbiz.cn, a Chinese-language Web site that became a lively forum about Uighur life and views.

"Professor Ilham Tohti is a Uighur intellectual who devoted himself to friendship between ethnic groups and eradicating conflicts between them. He should not be taken as a criminal," said the letter, which demanded information about his case and was posted online Monday.

Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri in a televised speech July 6 accused Tohti's Web site and another popular one of helping "to orchestrate the incitement and spread propaganda," a day after the riot.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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