Death Toll From China's Ethnic Riots Hits 184

By: WILLIAM FOREMAN and GILLIAN WONG
By: WILLIAM FOREMAN and GILLIAN WONG

URUMQI, China (AP) - China raised the death toll from riots in
its Xinjiang region to 184, state media said Saturday, giving an
ethnic breakdown of the dead for the first time after communal
violence broke out in this far western city.

The official Xinhua News Agency said 137 of the victims belonged
to the dominant Han ethnic group. The rest included 45 men and one
woman who were Uighurs, and one man of the Hui Muslim ethnic group,
the report said, citing the information office of the regional
government.

The previous death toll was 156. Xinhua gave no details on the
newly reported deaths, including whether any were from Tuesday,
when Han men seeking revenge for the original Uighur-led protest
that turned violent marched through the streets with clubs and
cleavers, trying to push past police guarding minority
neighborhoods.

Nearly a week after the rioting began, paramilitary police
carrying automatic weapons and riot shields blocked some roads
leading to the largely Muslim Uighur district of the city Saturday,
and groups of 30 marched along the road chanting slogans
encouraging ethnic unity.

Some shops were still closed, and a police van blared public
announcements in the Uighur language urging residents to oppose
activist Rebiya Kadeer, a 62-year-old Uighur businesswoman who
lives in exile in the U.S., whom China says instigated the riots.
She has denied it.

Protests continued Friday after a petite Muslim woman began
complaining that the public washrooms were closed at a crowded
mosque - the most important day of the week for Islamic worship.
Muslims perform required ablutions, or washing, before prayer.

When a group gathered around her on the sidewalk, Madina Ahtam
then railed against communist rule in Xinjiang.

The 26-year-old businesswoman eventually led the crowd of mostly
men in a fist-pumping street march that was quickly blocked by riot
police, some with automatic rifles pointed at the protesters.

Women have been on the front line in Urumqi partly because more
than 1,400 men in the Muslim Uighur minority have been rounded up
by police since ethnic rioting broke out July 5. As the communist
government launches a sweeping security crackdown, the women have
faced down troops, led protests and risked arrest by speaking out
against police tactics they believe are excessive.

The violence came as the Uighurs were protesting the June 25
deaths of Uighur factory workers in a brawl in southern China. The
crowd then scattered throughout Urumqi, attacking Han Chinese,
burning cars and smashing windows.

Many Uighurs who are still free live in fear of being arrested
for any act of dissent.

Thousands of Chinese troops have flooded into Urumqi to separate
the feuding ethnic groups, and a senior Communist Party official
vowed to execute those guilty of murder in the rioting.

A report in the Urumqi Evening News on Friday said police had
caught 190 suspects in four raids the day before.

In many Uighur neighborhoods during the crisis in Urumqi, the
women did much of the talking with reporters as the men gathered in
small groups on street corners and in back alleys, speaking quietly
among themselves.

"I can't speak freely. The police could come any minute and
haul me away," said a Uighur man who would only identify himself
as Alim.

But on Friday, some men challenged officials when they showed up
for prayers at Urumqi's popular White Mosque and found the gate
closed. Officials had earlier said the mosque would be closed for
public safety reasons as security forces tried to pacify the
capital.

The mosque was eventually opened when the crowd swelled and
there was a threat of unrest, police said.

Most Muslim Uighurs practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam or
follow the mystical Sufism tradition. The women often work and lead
an active social life outside the home. Many wear brightly colored
head scarves but the custom is not strongly enforced. Young Uighur
women often wear jeans, formfitting tops and dresses.

As the faithful streamed into the White Mosque, Ahtam arrived
holding a lilac umbrella and told foreign reporters in broken
English, "Toilet no open. No water."

She led reporters to an area where the faithful are supposed to
cleanse themselves before prayers and said with tears running down
her cheeks, "Washing room not open. Everybody no wash."

After the prayers, she continued speaking on the sidewalk and
attracted about 40 people who applauded when she criticized the
government.

"Every Uighur people are afraid. Do you understand? We are
afraid. Chinese people are very happy. Why?" said Ahtam.

The government believes the Uighurs should be grateful for
Xinjiang's rapid economic development, which has brought new
schools, highways, airports, railways, natural gas fields and oil
wells in the sprawling, rugged Central Asian region, three times
the size of Texas.

But many of the Turkic-speaking Uighurs, with a population of 9
million in Xinjiang, accuse the dominant Han ethnic group of
discriminating against them and saving all the best jobs for
themselves. Many also say the Communist Party is repressive and
tries to snuff out their Islamic faith, language and culture.

As Ahtam's crowd became more agitated, about 20 riot police with
clubs marched toward the group. The Uighurs pumped their fists in
the air and walked down the street with Ahtam leading the pack.

About 200 more riot police arrived and cut off the group, with
some of the security forces kneeling down and pointing their
automatic rifles at the marchers. Foreign reporters were led to a
side alley, out of view of the protesters, who were forced to squat
on the sidewalk along a row of shuttered shops.

Hours later, calls to Ahtam's cell phone went unanswered and it
was unknown what happened to her.


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