URUMQI: Several hundred rioters were under arrest in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region Monday after at least 156 people were killed and about 1,080 others injured in riots that erupted in the capital on Sunday night, officials said Monday.
Li Yi, head of the publicity department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xinjiang regional committee, said early Tuesday morning that the dead include 129 men and 27 women.
The police put the death toll at 140 as of midday of Monday. Among the 16 newly reported dead, some died in hospitals and others were recovered from street corners, the regional police authorities said Monday night.
Among the 140 dead, 57 bodies were retrieved from the streets, while the other victims were confirmed dead in hospitals, Liu Yaohua, the regional police chief, told a press conference.
Liu said police were searching for about 90 key suspects in the city.
"Police have tightened security in downtown Urumqi and at key institutions such as power and natural gas facilities, as well as TV stations, to prevent large-scale riots."
Checkpoints have also been set up throughout the city as well as in neighboring Changji and Turpan prefectures, to prevent any suspected rioters from fleeing, Liu said. More than 100 officials from several ethnic groups in adjacent areas have been brought in to the regional capital to help interrogate suspects, he said.
Police have got clues that some people were trying to organize more unrests in Kashi City, Yili Kazak Prefecture and Aksu City.
An initial investigation found that the unrest was masterminded by the World Uygur Congress (WUR) and led by Rebiya Kadeer, regional authorities said.
Kadeer lives in the US.
"The unrest was a pre-emptive, organized, violent crime. It was instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country," a government statement said Monday.
The WUR had recently started stirring unrest via the Internet, among other means, calling on people "to be braver" and "do something big", the authorities said.
Nur Bekri, chairman of the regional government, said in a televised speech that the riots followed a dispute between Uygur workers and local people in a toy factory in Guangdong province on June 26. Two Uygur workers were reportedly killed during the factory brawl, which occurred after rumors that Uygur workers sexually assaulted Han female workers.
More than 100 members of the Han and Uygur ethnic groups were injured during that incident, the media reported.
Nur said the brawl was used by overseas opposition forces to instigate Sunday's unrest and undermine the ethnic unity and social stability in the autonomous region, with an aim to split the country.
"We should bear in mind that stability is in the greatest interest of all people in China, including the people in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region," he said.
"Sunday night's attack was brutal and violent," Li Zhi, Party secretary of Urumqi, said Monday.
Kadeer told her contacts in Urumqi on July 4 that "something big" would happen there the next day and asked them to collect relevant information, Li said.
About 10 minutes of the footage of Sunday night's riots were shown at the press conference Monday.
Rioters vandalized and burned 203 local stores and 14 residential houses, while 260 vehicles, including two police vehicles and 190 buses, were reportedly torched.
Chen Li, director of the information office in Kashgar, denied an earlier AP report about a riot in Kashgar Monday.
People were not able to access the Internet in Urumqi since early Monday morning.
Shopping centers and banks remained closed in the affected districts Monday and the area was still under strict traffic control.
Workers feel lucky to be alive after chaos
With his automobile shop in Urumqi razed to the ground, store manager Guo Jianxin returned to the wreckage after fleeing with coworkers to a nearby hill, still frightened and shaking on Sunday.
"Fortunately I managed to escape the attacks," said the Geely car store general manager, hours after violence broke out in the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Amid the riots that engulfed Urumqi, where at least 140 were reportedly killed, many store owners of various ethnic groups in the area said they felt lucky just to be alive after hiding and escaping the chaos.
"It was about 10 pm and I saw rioters outside," Guo said. "I asked more than 20 store workers to help protect the shop, but there were too many rioters ... more than 100, holding knives, wooden batons and stones," said Guo, an ethnic Hui.
Failing to dissuade the rioters from entering the store, Guo led his workers up a hill beside the car shop.
The three-story building was ablaze; more than 30 new cars were torched. One worker, whose arm was broken, was sent to hospital.
On the other side of the street was another store owned by a Han couple. They said that when they saw rioters on the streets after 10 pm, they immediately shut the door and escaped.
When they returned, the couple found that the shop was torched. Some 20,000 yuan ($2,940) and a camera in the counter were gone.
Next door a young worker from the southwestern Sichuan province was beaten to death, the couple said.
"I never thought I would come out alive," said a cigarette and liquor store owner standing in front of his empty store with shattered windows Monday. The owner said the store was robbed by rioters on Sunday night.
"The violence from the rioters was getting out of hand around 10 pm, so my sister-in-law I and decided to hide under the bed in the stockroom," said the owner.
He also said that he heard the rioters smashing windows to enter the locked store.
"We've been hiding under the bed for three hours, we thought we were going to die," the owner recalled.
In the hospital
The Urumqi People's Hospital, one of the biggest hospitals in Urumqi, took in 291 victims of the riot.
Among them, 233 were Han, 39 were Uygurs, while the rest were from other ethnic minorities such as Hui and Kazak, said Wang Faxing, president of the hospital.
"Most victims suffered injuries to the head," Xing Haitao, the deputy chief of the emergency department, said Monday.
Seventeen of the patients died later.
In the aftermath of the violence, relatives of the injured expressed their anger about the rioters.
'Sheer violence' Only separatist organizations can conduct assaults of this magnitude, said Yang Jianxin, director of the ethnic studies center in Gansu-based Lanzhou University.
Barry Sautman, an expert on China's ethnic policies at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said some secessionists used a brawl between Uygur and Han workers in a Shaoguan toy factory in Guangdong province to orchestrate the riot.
"Without presenting evidence, the World Uygur Congress, the main confederation of separatist organizations, has claimed that this amounted to 'government ethnic cleansing'," Sautman said.
He said "if that and similar views were spread to Xinjiang, they would have a provocative effect and contribute to" the violent incident in Urumqi.
Xinhua contributed to the story
Peace reigns at toy factory in Shaoguan
SHAOGUAN, Guangdong: In stark contrast to the deadly brawl on its grounds on June 26 that allegedly sparked the latest riots in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi, peace fell upon the toy factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong province, Monday.
No police cars or security forces were at the scene. No security guards attempted to stop reporters from entering the factory.
But on June 26, the factory was the scene of a fight involving hundreds of people. The riots began about 2 am, leaving two dead and 118 injured.
Xinjiang authorities later said some overseas opposition forces used Shaoguan's brawl to instigate Sunday's riot in Xinjiang.
Monday, the factory was hiring more workers, but applicants had to first show their ID cards to prove they were not from Xinjiang.
More than 800 of the factory's 10,000 workers, of the Uygur minority group, were moved to three temporary shelters in the city after the brawl.
The fight broke out after a disgruntled former factory worker allegedly made a false post online that "six Xinjiang boys had raped two innocent girls at the Xuri Toy Factory," officials said.
The rumor was reportedly first posted on www.sg169.com, a major website in Shaoguan, and then re-run on many other websites, triggering the brawl.
Police later said no rape cases have been reported since May in the district where the factory is located. Authorities have detained the worker.
The suspect quit working at the factory, then wished to be rehired, but the company refused, police said.
Then he faked the rape information to express his discontent with the factory, police said.
Police would not release the man's full name and only gave his family name as Zhu.
About 400 police had to be deployed to evacuate people on the site, with the violence lasting until early morning that day.
Those who were injured in the factory brawl have been hospitalized at the Yuebei People's Hospital in Shaoguan. About half of them are of the Uygur ethnic group. Visits to the hospital by China Daily Monday found them being treated in a special ward guarded by police, restricted from the public.
Editorial: Say no to riots
On Sunday night, people saw bloodstains on the market streets of Xinjiang, the part of China adjacent to Central Asia with a high proportion of Muslim people. There were riots, called for by overseas-based, small groups campaigning for independence.
The government of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has earned the nation's support by taking prompt action to quell the violence. There is no question that peace and order will be restored, and more importantly, Xinjiang will never be separated from the People's Republic of China on either racial or religious ground.
The bloodshed is unfortunate. Even more unfortunate is that the event used by separatists to fan violence was a fight between factory workers in distant South China - in a toy factory with Hong Kong investment based in Shaoguan, Guangdong province. The fracas was reportedly caused by an Internet message - posted by a rejected job applicant - alleging rape by some Uygur workers in the factory.
The overnight melee left two Uygur workers dead. With no evidence to support the allegation of rape, the local police have already taken into custody the person believed responsible for making up the rumor. The Chinese press has given full coverage to the incident.
While extending our condolences to the victims, and expressing the hope that the innocent Uygur workers would be treated decently and protected by the factory management and the Shaoguan government, we forthrightly condemn the overseas-based instigators of violence in Xinjiang, in the name of revenge.
The domestic proxies, who led the politically motivated riots in Xinjiang should not be allowed to escape blame for ransacking the cities belonging collectively to the Uygurs, Hans (the Chinese majority), Kazaks, Huis and nine other nationalities, and their flourishing businesses.
Now it is all too evident how their irresponsible actions have harmed all people of Xinjiang.
The small groups of separatists and their sympathizers abroad should be frustrated in their attempts to sow the seeds of racial and religious hatred in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang does not belong to any single nationality; in fact, it never has in the history of the ancient Silk Roads. Their politicizing of the Shaoguan incident, or any isolated street-level or workplace strife, is as dastardly and despicable as the desperate move by a rumor-mongering individual.
It is easy to see the slender thread by which hung the separatists' genuine hope of succeeding in their grand but nefarious scheme. All that they can do now is to stir up violence and grab some media attention - by using the quick-tempered youth in their hometowns as cheap sacrifices. Their destruction and killings are soon to be laid bare as evidence of how these elements pursue their hideous cause.
All nationalities in Xinjiang will appreciate the necessity for greater vigilance and stronger security to protect their peaceful lives.
At the same time, more explanation and education may be in order for people in Xinjiang and across the country about the painful lessons of any attempt, deliberate or otherwise, to jeopardize the unity of all member nationalities of China.