China says another 319 held over Xinjiang riot

/ Source: The Associated Press

Police in western China have detained another 319 people suspected of being involved in deadly ethnic unrest between Muslim minority Uighurs and the dominant Han Chinese community last month, a state news agency said.

Police in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, said the detentions were made in the city and elsewhere in the far western region, based on information given by the public or obtained in investigations, the official Xinhua News Agency reported late Sunday.

The detentions were in addition to earlier announcements by the government that more than 1,600 people have been detained over the July 5 riots in Urumqi that started when police stopped a protest by Turkic-speaking Uighur residents. The Uighurs smashed windows, burned cars and attacked Han Chinese. Two days later, the Han took to the streets and staged retaliatory attacks.

Xinhua said Urumqi police would not say how many — if any — of the 1,600 detained earlier have been released, and that suspects will face charges related to the July 5 riot.

The government says 197 people were killed and more than 1,700 were injured in the violence and that most of the victims were Han Chinese.

Uighurs 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 the region by the government, believe the Uighurs should be grateful for Xinjiang's rapid economic development.

The report of the detentions came as an Internet message purportedly from the leader of an Islamic group fighting Chinese rule in Xinjiang urged Muslims worldwide to attack Chinese interests in retaliation for what it called the oppression of the Uighurs.

The audio recording in the name of Sheik Abdul Haq al-Turkistani was posted on the Internet on Sunday. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.

"They (Chinese) must be attacked inside and outside," the message said. "Their embassies, consulates and places where they meet should be targeted to kill their men and capture them to exchange them for our prisoners in Eastern Turkistan."

China has repeatedly blamed outside agitators and the influence of the "three evil forces" — extremism, terrorism and separatism — but have provided little evidence to support that contention. Specifically, it has blamed exiled leading Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer for instigating the protests that led to violence when police stepped in.

Kadeer said last week 10,000 Uighurs disappeared during the recent crackdown, but a Chinese official called the figure "completely fabricated."