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July 2009 Ürümqi riots

July 2009 Ürümqi riots

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|title=2009 Ürümqi riots

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|l2=Ürümqi 7·5 Violent Incident
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Some say the police used excessive force against the protesters; the World Uyghur Congress quickly issued press releases saying that the police had used deadly force and killed "scores" of protesters. Kadeer has alleged that there were agents provocateurs
Agent provocateur
Traditionally, an agent provocateur is a person employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act...

among the crowds. Others claim that the protesters initiated the violence; for example, a Uyghur eyewitness cited by The New York Times said protesters began throwing rocks at the police. The government's official line was that the violence was not only initiated by the protesters, but also had been premeditated and coordinated by Uyghur separatists abroad. The local public security bureau
Public Security Bureau
In the People's Republic of China, a public security bureau refers to the government offices while the smaller offices are called Police posts which are similar in concept to the Japanese Kōban system) present in each province and municipality that handles policing , public security, and...

 said it found evidence that many Uyghurs had travelled from other cities to gather for the riot, and that they had begun preparing weapons two or three days before the riot.

Escalation and spread

After the confrontation with police turned violent, rioters began hurling rocks, smashing vehicles, breaking into shops, and attacking Han civilians. At least 1,000 Uyghurs were involved in the rioting when it began, and the number of rioters may have risen to as many as 3,000. Jane Macartney of The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

characterised the first day's rioting as consisting mainly of "Han stabbed by marauding gangs of Uighurs"; a report in The Australian
The Australian
The Australian is a broadsheet newspaper published in Australia from Monday to Saturday each week since 14 July 1964. The editor in chief is Chris Mitchell, the editor is Clive Mathieson and the 'editor-at-large' is Paul Kelly....

several months later suggested that religiously moderate Uyghurs may also have been attacked by rioters. Although the majority of rioters were Uyghur, not all Uyghurs were violent during the riots; there are accounts of Han and Uyghur civilians helping each other escape the violence and hide. About 1,000 police officers were dispatched; they used batons, live ammunition, tasers, tear gas and water hoses to disperse the rioters, and set up roadblocks and posted armoured vehicles throughout the city.
During a press conference, Mayor Jirla Isamuddin said that at about 8:15 p.m., some protesters started to fight and loot, overturned guardrails and smashed three buses before being dispersed. At 8:30 p.m., violence escalated around South Jiefang Road and Longquan Street area, with rioters torching police patrol cars and attacking passers-by. Soon, between 700 to 800 people went from the People's Square to Daximen and Xiaoximen area, "fighting, smashing, looting, torching and killing" along the way. At 9:30 p.m., the government received reports that three people had been killed and 26 injured, 6 of whom were police officers. Police reinforcements were dispatched to hotspots of People's Square, Nanmen, Tuanjie Road, Saimachang and South Xinhua Road. Police took control of the main roadways and commercial districts in the city at around 10 pm, but riots continued in side streets and alleyways, with Hans attacked and cars overturned or torched, according to the mayor. Police then formed small teams and "swept" the entire city for the next two days. A strict curfew was put in place; authorities imposed "comprehensive traffic control" from 9:00 pm Tuesday to 8:00 am Wednesday "to avoid further chaos".

The official news agency, Xinhua, reported that police believed agitators were trying to organise more unrest in other areas in Xinjiang, such as Aksu and the Yili Prefecture
Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture
Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture , in northernmost Xinjiang, is the only Kazakh autonomous prefecture of the People's Republic of China.-Geography and coordinates:The following figures excludes both Tacheng Prefecture and Altay Prefecture....

. Violent protests also sprang up in Kashgar
Kashgar or Kashi is an oasis city with approximately 350,000 residents in the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. Kashgar is the administrative centre of Kashgar Prefecture which has an area of 162,000 km² and a population of approximately...

, in southwestern Xinjiang, where the South China Morning Post reported many shops were closed, and the area around the mosque was sealed off by a People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

 platoon after confrontations. Local Uyghurs blamed the security forces for using excessive force—they "attacked the protesters and arrested 50 people". Another clash was reported near the mosque on Tuesday, 7 July, and an estimated 50 people were arrested. Up to 12,000 students at the Kashgar Teaching Institute were confined to campus since Sunday's riots, according to the Post. Many of the institute's students had apparently travelled to Ürümqi for the demonstrations there.

Casualties and damage

During the first hours of the rioting, state media only reported that three people had been killed. The number rose sharply, though, after the first night's rioting; at midday on Monday, 6 July, Xinhua announced that 129 people had died. In the following days the death toll reported by various government sources (including Xinhua and party officials) gradually grew, with the last official update on 18 July placing the tally at 197 dead, 1,721 injured. The World Uyghur Congress has claimed that the death toll was around 600.

Xinhua did not immediately disclose the ethnic breakdown of the dead, but journalists from The Times and The Daily Telegraph reported that most of the victims appeared to have been Han. For instance, on 10 July Xinhua stated that 137 of the dead (out of the total of 184 that was being reported at that time) were Han, 46 Uyghur, and 1 Hui
Hui people
The Hui people are an ethnic group in China, defined as Chinese speaking people descended from foreign Muslims. They are typically distinguished by their practice of Islam, however some also practice other religions, and many are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers.In modern People's...

. There were casualties among the rioters as well; for example, according to official accounts, a group of 12 rioters attacking civilians were shot by police. In the months following the riots, the government maintained that the majority of casualties were Han and hospitals said that two-thirds of the injured were Han, although the World Uyghur Congress claims that many Uyghurs were killed as well. According to the official count released by the Chinese government in August 2009, 134 of the 156 civilian victims were Han, 11 Hui, 10 Uyghur, and 1 Manchu
The Manchu people or Man are an ethnic minority of China who originated in Manchuria . During their rise in the 17th century, with the help of the Ming dynasty rebels , they came to power in China and founded the Qing Dynasty, which ruled China until the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, which...

. Uyghur advocates continue to question these figures, saying that the number of ethnic Uyghurs remains understated. Xinhua reported that 627 vehicles and 633 constructions were damaged.

The Ürümqi municipal government initially announced that it would pay ¥
Chinese yuan
The yuan is the base unit of a number of modern Chinese currencies. The yuan is the primary unit of account of the Renminbi.A yuán is also known colloquially as a kuài . One yuán is divided into 10 jiǎo or colloquially máo...

200,000 as compensation, plus another ¥10,000 as "funeral expense" for every "innocent death" caused by the riot. The compensation was later doubled to ¥420,000 per death. Mayor Jirla Isamuddin estimated that the compensations will cost at least ¥100 million.

After 5 July

The city remained tense while journalists invited into the city witnessed confrontational scenes between Chinese troops and Uyghurs demanding the release of family members who they said had been arbitrarily arrested. Uyghur women told The Daily Telegraph reporter that police entered Uyghur districts in the night of 6 July, burst through doors, pulled men and boys from their beds, and rounded up 100 suspects. By 7 July, officials reported that 1,434 suspected rioters had been arrested. A group of 200 to 300 Uyghur women assembled on 7 July to protest what they said was "indiscriminate" detention of Uyghur men; the protest led to a tense but non-violent confrontation with police forces. Rebiya Kadeer claimed that "nearly 10,000 people" had gone missing overnight. Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 (HRW) later documented 43 cases of Uyghur men who disappeared after being taken away by Chinese security forces in large-scale sweeps of Uyghur neighbourhoods overnight on 6–7 July, and said that this was likely to be "just the tip of the iceberg"; HRW allege that young men, mostly in their 20s, had been unlawfully arrested and have not been seen or heard from as of 20 October 2009

On 7 July, there were large-scale armed demonstrations by ethnic Han in Ürümqi. Conflicting estimates of the Han demonstrators' numbers were reported by the western media and varied from "hundreds" to as high as 10,000. The Times reported that smaller fights were frequently breaking out between Uyghurs and Hans, and that groups of Han citizens had organised to take revenge on "Uyghur mobs". Police used tear gas and roadblocks in an attempt to disperse the demonstration, and urged Han citizens over loudspeakers to "calm down" and "let the police do their job". Li Zhi
Li Zhi (official)
Li Zhi is a politician in the People's Republic of China, most notable for his role as the Communist party chief of Ürümqi during the city's rioting in July 2009...

, party chief of Ürümqi, stood on the roof of a police car with a megaphone appealing to the crowd to go home.

Mass protests had been quelled by 8 July, although sporadic violence was reported. In the days after the riots, "thousands" of people tried to leave the city, and the price for bus tickets rose as much as fivefold.

On 10 July, city authorities closed Ürümqi mosques "for public safety", saying it was too dangerous to have large gatherings and that holding Jumu'ah
Jumu'ah is a congregational prayer that Muslims hold every Friday, just after noon in lieu of dhuhr...

, traditional Friday prayers, could reignite tensions. Large crowds of Uyghurs gathered for prayer anyway, however, and police decided to let two mosques open to avoid having an "incident". After prayers at the White Mosque, several hundred people demonstrated over people detained after the riot, but were dispersed by riot police, with five or six people arrested.

Over 300 more people were reported arrested in early August. According to the BBC, the total number of arrests in connection with the riots was over 1,500. The Financial Times estimated that the number was higher, citing an insider saying that some 4,000 arrests had already taken place by mid July, and that Ürümqi's prisons were so full that newly arrested people were being held in a People's Liberation Army warehouse. According to the Uyghur American Association, several other Uyghur journalists and bloggers were also detained after the riots; one of them, journalist Gheyret Niyaz, was later sentenced to 15 years in prison for having spoken to foreign media. In the most high-profile case, Ilham Tohti
Ilham Tohti
Ilham Tohti is an ethnic Uyghur and mainland Chinese economist. Just days after the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, he was detained in Beijing by PRC authorities because of his criticism of that government's policies toward Uyghurs in Xinjiang...

, an ethnic Uyghur economist at Minzu University of China, was arrested two days after the riots over his criticisms of the Xinjiang government.

Communications black-out

Mobile phone service and internet access were limited both during and after the riots. China Mobile phone service was cut "to prevent the incident from spreading further". Outbound international calls throughout Xinjiang were blocked, and Internet connections in the region had been locked down or non-local websites blocked. Reporting from Ürümqi's Hoi Tak Hotel on 9 July, Aljazeera reported that the foreign journalists' hotel was the only place in the city with Internet access, although the journalist could not send text messages or place international phone calls. Many unauthorised postings on local sites and Google were removed by censors; images and video footage of the demonstrations and rioting, however, were soon found posted on Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr
Flickr is an image hosting and video hosting website, web services suite, and online community that was created by Ludicorp in 2004 and acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to...

. Many Xinjiang-based websites became inaccessible worldwide, and internet access within Ürümqi remained restricted nearly a year following the riots; it was not restored until 14 May 2010.


Chinese state-controlled television broadcast graphic footage of cars being smashed and people being beaten. Officials reiterated the party line: XUAR chairman Nur Bekri delivered a lengthy address on the situation and on the Shaoguan incident, and claimed that the government of both Guangdong and Xinjiang had dealt with the deaths of the workers properly and with respect. Bekri further condemned the riots as "premeditated and planned"; Eligen Imibakhi, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Regional People's Congress, blamed 5 July riots on "extremism, separatism and terrorism".
The Chinese media covered the rioting extensively. Hours after troops stopped the rioting, the state invited foreign journalists on an official fact-finding trip to Ürümqi; journalists from more than 100 media organisations were all corralled into the downtown Hoi Tak Hotel, sharing 30 internet connections. Journalists were given unprecedented access to troublespots and hospitals. The Financial Times referred to this handling as an improvement, compared to the "public-relations disaster" of the Tibetan unrest in 2008.

In an effort to soothe tensions immediately after the riots, state media began a mass publicity campaign throughout Xinjiang extolling ethnic harmony. Local television programmes united Uyghur and Han singers in a chorus of "We are all part of the same family"; Uygurs who "acted heroically" during the riots were profiled; loud-hailer trucks blasted slogans in the streets. A common slogan warned against the "three forces
Three Evils
The Three Evils are "terrorism, separatism and religious extremism". The phrase is frequently used when referring to counter-terrorism operations undertaken by China, the Central Asian republics, and Russia....

" of terrorism, separatism and extremism.

President Hu Jintao curtailed his attendance of the G8 summit in Italy
35th G8 summit
The 35th G8 summit took place in the city of L'Aquila, Abruzzo, on July 8–10, 2009. It was moved from the Sardinian seaside city of La Maddalena as part of an attempt to redistribute disaster funds after the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake.....

, convened an emergency meeting of the Politburo
Politburo of the Communist Party of China
The Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China or Political bureau of the CPC Central Committee , formerly as Central Bureau before 1927, is a group of 24 people who oversee the Communist Party of China...

, and dispatched Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang
Zhou Yongkang
Zhou Yongkang is a senior leader of the Communist Party of China who is currently serving as the 9th ranked member of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, and the head of the Central Political and Legislative Committee, an organ directing central government legal policy and the legislative...

 to Xinjiang to "guid[e] stability-preservation work in Xinjiang". South China Morning Post reported a government source saying Beijing would re-evaluate the impact on arrangements for the country's forthcoming 60th anniversary celebrations in October. Guangdong's CPC
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 Provincial Committee Secretary, Wang Yang, noted that the government policies towards ethnic minorities "definitely need adjustments", otherwise "there will be some problems." A security planner said the authorities planned to fly in more troops from other stations to raise the number of armed police presence to 130,000 before the 60th anniversary celebrations in October.

After the riots, the Chinese government exercised diplomatic pressure on nations that Rebiya Kadeer was scheduled to visit. In late July, India declined Kadeer a visa "on the advice of Beijing", and Beijing summoned the Japanese ambassador in protest of a trip Kadeer made to Japan. When Kadeer visited Australia in August to promote a film about her life, China officially complained to the Australian government and asked for the film to be withdrawn.

Internet response

The response to the riots on the Chinese blogosphere was markedly more varied than the official response. Despite blocks and censorship, Internet watchers
Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China
Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China is conducted under a wide variety of laws and administrative regulations. There are no specific laws or regulations which the censorship follows...

 monitored continued attempts by netizens to publish their own thoughts on the causes of the incident or vent their anger about the violence. While some bloggers were supportive of the government, others were more reflective of the event's cause. On numerous forums and news sites, government workers quickly removed comments about the riots.

International organisations

  • United Nations: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
    Ban Ki-moon
    Ban Ki-moon is the eighth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, after succeeding Kofi Annan in 2007. Before going on to be Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service the year he...

     urged all sides to exercise restraint, and called on China to take measures to protect the civilian population as well as respect the freedoms of citizens, including freedom of speech, assembly and information. Human rights chief Navi Pillay said she was "alarmed" over the high death toll, noting this was an "extraordinarily high number of people to be killed and injured in less than a day of rioting." She also said China must treat detainees humanely in a way that adheres to international norms.
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: said it sympathised with the family members of those innocent people killed in the riot; it said that its member states regard Xinjiang as an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China and believe the situation in Xinjiang is purely China's internal affairs. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
    Sergey Lavrov
    Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov is the Foreign Minister of Russia. Prior to that, Lavrov was a Soviet diplomat and Russia's ambassador to the United Nations from 1994 to 2004. Lavrov speaks Russian, English, French and Sinhala....

     condemned rioters for "Using separatist slogans and provoking ethnic intolerance. Officials from both neighbouring Kazakhstan
    Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

     and Kyrgyzstan
    Kyrgyzstan , officially the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the world's six independent Turkic states . Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east...

     said they were braced for "an influx of refugees" and tightened border controls. Despite the Kazakh government support, over 5,000 Uyghurs protested on 19 July in former capital Almaty
    Almaty , also known by its former names Verny and Alma-Ata , is the former capital of Kazakhstan and the nation's largest city, with a population of 1,348,500...

     against Chinese police use of deadly force against the rioters.
  • Organisation of the Islamic Conference
    Organisation of the Islamic Conference
    The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Upon the groups's renaming, some sources provided the English-language translation "Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation", but and have since indicated the preferred English translation omits the "the". is an international organisation consisting of 57...

    : decried the "disproportionate use of force", calling on Beijing to "bring those responsible to justice swiftly" and urging China to find a solution to the unrest by examining why it had erupted.
  • European Union: leaders expressed concern, and urged the Chinese government to show restraint in dealing with the protests: German Chancellor Angela Merkel
    Angela Merkel
    Angela Dorothea Merkel is the current Chancellor of Germany . Merkel, elected to the Bundestag from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, has been the chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000, and chairwoman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary coalition from 2002 to 2005.From 2005 to 2009 she led a...

     urged respect for the rights of minorities; Italian President Giorgio Napolitano
    Giorgio Napolitano
    Giorgio Napolitano is an Italian politician who has been the 11th President of Italy since 2006. A long-time member of the Italian Communist Party and later the Democrats of the Left, he served as President of the Chamber of Deputies from 1992 to 1994 and as Minister of the Interior from 1996 to...

     brought up human rights at a press conference with Hu Jintao, and said that "economic and social progress that is being achieved in China places new demands in terms of human rights."


Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Vietnam said they believed the Chinese government was "taking appropriate measures", their statements backed "the territorial integrity and sovereignty of China". Micronesian Vice President
Vice President of the Federated States of Micronesia
Vice President of Federated States of Micronesia is the second highest position in Federated States of Micronesia.History of the office holders follows...

 Alik Alik condemned the riot as a "terrorist act".

Turkey, which has a vocal Uyghur minority, officially expressed "deep sadness", and urged the Chinese authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. Its Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been Prime Minister of Turkey since 2003 and is chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party , which holds a majority of the seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Erdoğan served as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He graduated in 1981 from Marmara...

, said the incident was "like genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

", while Trade and Industry Minister Nihat Ergun
Nihat Ergün
Nihat Ergün is a Turkish politician born in Izmit.Ergün completed primary, middle and high schools in Izmit. He graduated from the Marmara University Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences in 1984....

 called for a boycott on Chinese goods. The Turkish stance sparked a significant outcry from Chinese media.
Iran said it shared the concerns of Turkey and the OIC, and appealed to the Chinese government to respect the rights of the Muslim population in Xinjiang.

The Japanese government was monitoring the situation, with concern; Singapore urged restraint and dialogue; while the ROC
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 government in Taiwan strongly condemned all those who instigated the violence. Premier Liu Chiao-shiuan also urged restraint and expressed hope that the Chinese authorities will demonstrate the "greatest possible leniency and tolerance in dealing with the aftermath" and respect the rights of ethnic minorities. That said, Taiwan denied a visa to Kadeer in September 2009, alleging she had links to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement
East Turkestan Islamic Movement
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) (also known as the Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIM), and other names; is a Waziri based mujahideen organization. Its stated goals are the independence of East Turkestan and the...

, classed as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and United States.

Switzerland called for restraint, and sent condolences to the families of victims and urged China to respect freedom of expression and the press. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Kevin Rudd
Kevin Michael Rudd is an Australian politician who was the 26th Prime Minister of Australia from 2007 to 2010. He has been Minister for Foreign Affairs since 2010...

 of Australia urged restraint to bring about a "peaceful settlement to this difficulty." Serbia stated that it opposed separatism and supports the "resolution of all disputes by peaceful means." Belarus noted with regret the loss of life and damage in the region, and hoped that the situation would soon normalise.

There was violence in the Netherlands and in Norway: the Chinese embassy in the Netherlands was attacked by Uyghur activists who smashed windows with bricks, the Chinese flag was also burnt. There were 142 arrests, and China closed the embassy for the day. About 100 Uyghurs protested outside the Chinese embassy in the Norwegian capital. Eleven were detained, and later released without charge. Protesters from a coalition of Indonesian Islamist
Islam in Indonesia
Islam is the dominant religion in Indonesia, which also has a larger Muslim population than any other country in the world, with approximately 202.9 million identified as Muslim as of 2009....

 groups attacked guards at the Chinese embassy in Jakarta
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Officially known as the Special Capital Territory of Jakarta, it is located on the northwest coast of Java, has an area of , and a population of 9,580,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political centre...

 and called for a jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

 against China.
Pakistan said there were some "elements" out to harm Sino-Pakistan ties would not damage or destabilise the interests of the two countries. Sri Lanka stressed the incident was an internal affair of China and was confident that efforts by the Chinese authorities would restore normalcy.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon
Lawrence Cannon
Lawrence Cannon, PC is a Canadian politician from Quebec and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former Quebec lieutenant. On October 30, 2008 he was sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs...

 urged "dialogue and goodwill" to help resolve grievances and prevent further deterioration of the situation. The spokesman for the Obama administration said the United States regretted the loss of life in Xinjiang, was deeply concerned and called on all sides to exercise restraint. U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, said "it's important that the Chinese authorities act to restore order and prevent further violence." The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate...

 expressed "grave concern" over repression in China, and called for an independent investigation on the riots and targeted sanctions against China.

Other organisations

  • Amnesty International
    Amnesty International
    Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

    : called for an "impartial and independent" inquiry into the incident, adding that those detained for "peacefully expressing their views and exercising their freedom of expression, association and assembly" must be released and others ensured to receive a fair trial.
  • Human Rights Watch
    Human Rights Watch
    Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

    : urged China to exercise restraint and to allow an independent inquiry into the events, which would include addressing Uyghur concerns about policies in the region. It also added that China should respect international norms when responding to the protests and only use force proportionately.
  • Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM): According to London-based risk analysis firm Stirling Assynt, Algeria
    Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

    -based AQIM issued a call to attack Chinese workers in North Africa.

Media coverage

Chen Shirong, China editor on the BBC World Service
BBC World Service
The BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster, broadcasting in 27 languages to many parts of the world via analogue and digital shortwave, internet streaming and podcasting, satellite, FM and MW relays...

, remarked at the improvement in media management by Xinhua: "To be more credible, it released video footage a few hours after the event, not two weeks." Peter Foster of the Daily Telegraph observed that "long-standing China commentators have been astonished at the speed at which Beijing has moved to seize the news agenda on this event," and attributed it to his belief that "China doesn't have a great deal to hide". A University of California, Berkeley academic agreed that the Chinese authorities had become more sophisticated. The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

and AFP
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse is a French news agency, the oldest one in the world, and one of the three largest with Associated Press and Reuters. It is also the largest French news agency. Currently, its CEO is Emmanuel Hoog and its news director Philippe Massonnet...

 recognised the Chinese learnt lessons from political protests around the world, such as the so-called colour revolutions in Georgia
Rose Revolution
The "Revolution of Roses" was a change of power in Georgia in November 2003, which took place after having widespread protests over the disputed parliamentary elections...

 and Ukraine
Orange Revolution
The Orange Revolution was a series of protests and political events that took place in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005, in the immediate aftermath of the run-off vote of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election which was claimed to be marred by massive corruption, voter...

, and the 2009 Iranian election protests
2009 Iranian election protests
Protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election against the disputed victory of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in support of opposition candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi occurred in major cities in Iran and around the world starting June 13, 2009...

, and concluded that Chinese experts had studied how modern electronic communications "helped protesters organize and reach the outside world, and for ways that governments sought to counter them."

But Willy Lam, fellow of the Jamestown Foundation
The Jamestown Foundation
The Jamestown Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based institute for research and analysis, founded in 1984 as a platform to support Soviet dissidents. Today its stated mission is to "inform and educate" policy makers about events and trends, which it regards as being of current "strategic"...

, sceptically said that the authorities were "just testing the reaction". He believed that if the outcome of this openness was poor they would "put the brakes on" as they did after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake
2008 Sichuan earthquake
The 2008 Sichuan earthquake or the Great Sichuan Earthquake was a deadly earthquake that measured at 8.0 Msand 7.9 Mw occurred at 14:28:01 CST...

. There were instances of foreign journalists being taken into custody by the police, to be released shortly thereafter. On 10 July, officials ordered foreign media out of Kashgar, "for their own safety." Xia Lin, a top official at Xinhua, later revealed that violence caused by both sides during and after the riots had been downplayed or wholly unreported in official news channels, for the fear that the ethnic violence would spread beyond Ürümqi.

A People's Daily op-ed rebuked certain western media outlets for their "double standards, biased coverage and comments". It said that China failed to receive fair "repayment" from certain foreign political figures or media outlets for its openness and transparent attitude. The author said "a considerable number of media outlets still intentionally or inadvertently minimised the violent actions of the rioters, and attempted to focus on so-called racial conflict." However, D'Arcy Doran from Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse is a French news agency, the oldest one in the world, and one of the three largest with Associated Press and Reuters. It is also the largest French news agency. Currently, its CEO is Emmanuel Hoog and its news director Philippe Massonnet...

welcomed the increased openness for foreign media, but contrasted their reporting to Chinese media, which closely followed the government line to focus mainly on injured Hans whilst ignoring the "Uyghur story" or reasons behind the incident.

Many early reports of the riots, starting with one from Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

, used a picture purporting to show the previous day's riots. The photo, showing large number of People's Armed Police
People's Armed Police
The People's Armed Police , officially Chinese People's Armed Police Force is a paramilitary or gendarmerie force primarily responsible for civilian policing and fire rescue duties in the People's Republic of China, as well as provide support to PLA during wartime.In contrast to public security...

 squares, was one taken of the 2009 Shishou riot and originally published on 26 June by Southern Metropolis Weekly. The same picture was mistakenly used by other agencies; it was on the website of The Daily Telegraph, but was removed a day later. In an interview with Al Jazeera on 7 July, WUC leader Rebiya Kadeer used the same Shishou photograph to defend the Uyghurs in Ürümqi. A World Uyghur Congress representative later apologised, explaining that the photo was chosen out of hundreds for its image quality.

On 3 August, Xinhua reported that two of Rebiya Kadeer's children had written letters blaming her for orchestrating the riots. A Germany-based spokesman for the WUC rejected the letters as fakes. A Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 researcher remarked their style was "suspiciously close" to the way the Chinese authorities had described rioting in Xinjiang and the aftermath. He added that "it's highly irregular for [her children] to be placed on the platform of a government mouthpiece [...] for wide dispersion."

Arrests and trials

In early August, the Ürümqi government announced that 83 individuals had been "officially" arrested in connection with the riots. China Daily reported in late August that over 200 people were being charged and that trials would begin by the end of August. Although this was denied both by a provincial and a local Party official, Xinjiang authorities later announced that arrest warrants had been issued to 196 suspects, of which 51 had already been prosecuted. Police also requested that the procuratorate approve the arrest of a further 239 people, and detention of 825 more, China Daily said. In early December, 94 "fugitives" were arrested.

The state first announced criminal charges against detainees in late September, when it charged 21 people with "murder, arson, robbery, and damaging property". 14,000 security personnel were deployed in Ürümqi from 11 October, and the next day a Xinjiang court sentenced six men to death, and one to life imprisonment, for their roles in the riots. All six men were Uyghurs, and were found guilty of murder, arson and robbery during the riots. Foreign media said the sentences appeared to be aimed at mollifying the anger of the Han majority; the WUC denounced the verdict as "political", and said there was no desire to see justice served. Human Rights Watch said that there were "serious violations of due process" at the trials of 21 defendants relating to July protests. It said the trials "did not meet minimum international standards of due process and fair trials" – specifically, it said that the trials were carried out in a single day without prior public notice, that the defendants' choice of lawyers was restricted, and that the Party had given judges instructions on how to handle the cases. Xinhua, on the other hand, noted that the proceedings were conducted in both the Chinese and Uyghur languages, and that evidence had been carefully collected and verified before any decisions were made.

By February 2010, the number of death sentences issued had increased to at least 26, including at least one Han and one female Uyghur. Nine of the individuals sentenced were executed in November 2009; based on previous government statements, eight were Uyghur and one was Han.

Later unrest and security measures

Starting in mid-August, there was a string of attacks in which as many as 476 individuals may have been stabbed with hypodermic needle
Hypodermic needle
A hypodermic needle is a hollow needle commonly used with a syringe to inject substances into the body or extract fluids from it...

s. Officials believed that the attacks were targeting Han civilians and had been perpetrated by Uyghur separatists. In response to both concern over the attacks and dissatisfaction over the government's slowness in prosecuting people involved with the July riots, thousands of Hans protested in the streets. On 3 September, five people died during the protests and 14 were injured, according to an official. The next day, the Communist Party Chief of Ürümqi, Li Zhi
Li Zhi (official)
Li Zhi is a politician in the People's Republic of China, most notable for his role as the Communist party chief of Ürümqi during the city's rioting in July 2009...

, was removed from his post, along with the police chief, Liu Yaohua; the provincial Party secretary Wang Lequan
Wang Lequan
Wang Lequan is a Chinese politician, currently serving as the Deputy Chair of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee of the Communist Party of China. He was a prominent regional leader in Xinjiang, China, serving as the Region's Communist Party chief between 1994 and 2010...

 was replaced in April 2010.

While the city became calmer after these events, and the government made great efforts to show that life was returning to normal, an armed police presence did remain. As late as January 2010, it was reported that police were making patrols five or six times a day, and that patrols were stepped up at night. Shortly before the first anniversary of the rioting, the authorities installed more than 40,000 surveillance cameras
Closed-circuit television
Closed-circuit television is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, on a limited set of monitors....

 around Ürümqi to "ensure security in key public places".

Legislation and investigation

In late August, the central government passed a law outlining standards for the deployment of armed police during "rebellion, riots, large-scale serious criminal violence, terror attacks and other social safety incidents." After the protests in early September, the government issued an announcement banning all "unlicensed marches, demonstrations and mass protests". The provincial government also passed legislation banning the use of the internet to incite ethnic separatism.

In November, the Chinese government dispatched some 400 officials to Xinjiang, including senior leaders such as State Council secretary general Ma Kai
Ma Kai
Ma Kai is a State Councilor and Secretary General of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.-Biography:Ma Kai was born in Jinshan, Shanghai in 1946. He received his Master's degree from Renmin University of China in 1982....

, Propaganda department head Liu Yunshan
Liu Yunshan
-Biography:Liu worked in Inner Mongolia for 20 years, beginning with his appointment there in 1968.Mr. Liu is the Director of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. But because of party seniority, he serves behind Li Changchun...

, and United Front chief Du Qinglin
Du Qinglin
Du Qinglin is a politician of the People's Republic of China. He currently serves as vice chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference , and the director of United Front Work Department of Communist Party of China....

, to form an ad hoc "Team of Investigation and Research" on Xinjiang, ostensibly intended on studying the policy changes to be implemented in response to the violence. In April 2010, hardliner party chief Wang Lequan
Wang Lequan
Wang Lequan is a Chinese politician, currently serving as the Deputy Chair of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee of the Communist Party of China. He was a prominent regional leader in Xinjiang, China, serving as the Region's Communist Party chief between 1994 and 2010...

 was replaced by Zhang Chunxian
Zhang Chunxian
Zhang Chunxian is a Chinese politician. From 2005 to 2010 he was the CPC party chief of Hunan Province. He was subsequently transferred to Xinjiang to replace outgoing party secretary Wang Lequan.-Life and career:...

, a more conciliatory figure. The government authorized transfer payments totalling some $15 billion from eastern provinces to Xinjiang to aid in the province's economic development, and announced plans to establish a special economic zone
Special Economic Zone
A Special Economic Zone is a geographical region that has economic and other laws that are more free-market-oriented than a country's typical or national laws...

 in Kashgar
Kashgar or Kashi is an oasis city with approximately 350,000 residents in the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. Kashgar is the administrative centre of Kashgar Prefecture which has an area of 162,000 km² and a population of approximately...


Officials have been sent to help resolve social issues: hundreds of cadres have been relocated from poor rural areas to 'unstable neighbourhoods' in Ürümqi; a policy has been implemented where priority has been given to ensure that there is at least one breadwinner in each family; university students are entitled to hand-outs. Slums are being redeveloped, opening way to new apartment blocks. However, independent observers believe that fundamental inequalities need to be addressed, and the mindset must change for there to be any success; Ilham Tohti warned that the new policy could attract more Han immigration, and further alienate the Uyghur population.

Public services and Internet access

It took until at least early August for public transport to be fully restored in the city. According to Xinhua, 267 buses had been damaged during the rioting; most were back in operation by 12 August. The government paid bus companies a total of ¥5.25 million in compensation. Despite the resumption of transportation services, and the government's efforts to encourage visitors to the region, tourism fell sharply after the riots; on the National Day
National Day of the People's Republic of China
The National Day of the People's Republic of China is celebrated every year on October 1. It is a public holiday in the People's Republic of China to celebrate their national day.The PRC was founded on October 1, 1949 with a ceremony at Tiananmen Square...

 holiday in October, Xinjiang had 25% fewer tourists than it did in 2008.

Ürümqi public schools opened on schedule in September for the fall semester, but with armed police guarding them. Many schools began first-day classes by focusing on patriotism.

On the other hand, Internet and international telephone service in Ürümqi remained limited for nearly a year after the riots. As late as November, most of the Internet was still inaccessible to residents and international phone calls were impossible; as late as December, most web content hosted outside the autonomous region remained off-limits to all but a few journalists, and residents had to travel to Dunhuang
Dunhuang is a city in northwestern Gansu province, Western China. It was a major stop on the ancient Silk Road. It was also known at times as Shāzhōu , or 'City of Sands', a name still used today...

 14 hours away to access the Internet normally. Within the city, only about 100 local sites, such as banks and regional government websites, could be accessed. Both incoming and outgoing international phone calls were disallowed, so Ürümqi residents could only communicate by calling intermediaries in other cities in China who would then place the international calls. The communications blackout generated controversy even within China: Yu Xiaofeng of Zhejiang University
Zhejiang University
Zhejiang University , sometimes referred to as Zheda, is a national university in China. Founded in 1897, Zhejiang University is one of China's oldest institutions of higher education...

 criticised the move, and many Ürümqi locals said it hurt businesses and delayed recovery, whereas David Gosset of the Euro-China forum argued that the government had the right to shut down communications for the sake of social stability; some locals believed that getting away from the Internet even improved their quality of life.

In late December, the government began restoring services gradually. The websites for Xinhua and the People's Daily, two state-controlled media outlets, were made accessible on 28 December, the web portals Sina.com
SINA is an online media company for China and Chinese communities around the world. SINA operates four major business lines: Sina Weibo, SINA Mobile, SINA Online, and SINA.net. SINA has over 100 million registered users worldwide...

 and Sohu.com on 10 January 2010, and 27 more websites on 6 February. But access to websites was only partial: for instance, users could browse forums and blogs but not post on them. China Daily reported that limited e-mail services were also restored in Ürümqi on 8 February, although a BBC reporter writing at approximately the same time said e-mail was not accessible yet. Text messaging on cell phones was restored on 17 January, although there was a limit to how many messages a user could send daily. Internet access was fully restored in May 2010.

External links

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