Monday, July 6, 2009



There has been an uneasy calm in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Province of China, after nearly 36 hours of bloody rioting by over 3000 Uighur students, supported by others. No fresh incident of violence was reported on the night of July 6, 2009.

2. A curfew is in force and reinforcements have been rushed to Urumqi from the Sichuan province. Fearing fresh unrest in Tibet, the Chinese have stepped up security measures in the Tibetan-inhabited areas.

3.The Chinese provincial authorities have admitted that 156 people---129 men and 27 women--- were killed in the riots and that the security forces in Urumqi have taken 1434 persons into preventive custody.

4.While there is uneasy calm in Urumqi, there are reports of spreading demonstrations from the rural areas, including Kashgar, which has been a hotbed of the activities of Islamic fundamentalist elements supporting the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan, which is allied with Al Qaeda.

5. While the protest demonstrations in Urumqi, which led to the violent riots due to over-reation by the Chinese security forces,
were largely led by liberal human rights elements with no links to the IMET and other fundamentalist organisations, reliable reports indicate that the protest demonstrations in Kashgar and other interior areas are being led by jihadi elements close to the IMET. The protesters have been shouting "Allah Is Great" slogans. This slogan was reportedly absent during the demonstrations in Urumqi. The protest demonstrations in Kashgar started from a local mosque.

6. The Chinese intelligence agencies have once again been taken by surprise as they were by the Tibetan uprising of March,2008. While they had been taking routine security precautions in view of the forthcoming 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, they had not anticipated the kind of violence which Urumqi saw on the night of July 6.

7.The Chinese security agencies, which generally tend to blame jihadi terrorists of the IMET for all their problems in Xinjiang, have thus far refrained from doing so in respect of the violence in Urumqi. They have been blaming it on "ethnic separatist terrorism" and not on "jihadi terrorism."

8.They are blaming the Munich-based World Uighur Congress (WUC) for the Urumqi violence just as they blamed the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) for the violence in Lhasa last year. A campaign for the demonisation of the WUC has already been started by the provincial authorities similar to the campaign for the demonisation of the TYC witnessed last year. Just as they projected the TYC as no different from Al Qaeda in its methods, they are projecting the WYC similarly.

9. Their suspicions and fears have been aggravated by the close links allegedly maintained by the WUC with the USA's National Endoment for Democracy (NED) and the Unrepresnted Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) based in Holland. The UNPO had played an active role in promoting the separation of the Baltic States from the erstwhile USSR. It had trained people from the Baltic States for many years. It has a similar active programme for the training of Uighurs from the diaspora. This training programme is allegedly being funded by the NED. At least two training camps have already been held.

10.Leaders of the WUC, including its President Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, who lives in the US, have strongly denied Chinese allegations that the WUC had instigated the Urumqi riots, but it is intriguing that the unprecedented outbreak followed less than two months after the WUC held its Third General Assembly in Washington, DC from May 21-25, 2009 . Delegates and observers from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Sweden, Turkey and the the US attended the Assembly. Ms. Rebiya Kadeer was re-elected as the President of the WUC.

11.The WUC was established on April 16, 2004 in Munich, Germany, by merging the East Turkestan National Congress and the World Uighur Youth Congress. It describes its main objective as to promote the right of the Uighur people to use peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to determine the political future of East Turkestan.

12.The Lhasa uprising of March,2008, and the Urumqi uprising of July 2009 have brought home a rude lesson to the Chinese ---- namely, that they cannot take China's unity and stability for granted. What happened in the Baltic States of the USSR can happen in China's periphery inhabited by non-Han minorities if they do not pay attention to their grievances, anger and political and cultural aspirations. (7-7-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and ,presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )



In a report disseminated at 2-30 PM Beijing time ( 12 noon Indian Standard Time) on July 6,2009, the State-controlled Xinhua news agency of China has admitted that normalcy has been only partially restored in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province, which saw the outbreak of violent protests by Uighur students on July 5,2009, who demanded the arrest and prosecution of the Han Chinese workers who attacked Uighur workers in a toy factory of Guangdong in Southern China on June 25,2009, killing two Uighurs. The Han Chinese had attacked the Uighurs
following the circulation of a report through the Internet alleging that some Uighur workers had raped two Han Chinese women. According to the Chinese authorities, the report of the rape was found to be false.

2. According to Uighur exile sources, the protesting students carried the Chinese national flag in order to highlight that theirs was a human rights demand and that they had nothing to do with the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan and other Islamic fundamentalist groups. According to these sources, the protesters did not even shout "Allah is Great" in order not to give a religious colour to their protest.

3. The exiles allege that despite the peaceful nature of the protest, the Chinese security forces lost their nerves and attacked the protesters. Initially, they attacked them with electrically-charged batons. The protesters then went out of control and started attacking Han Chinese passers-by and shops owned by Han Chinese. They also attacked the public transport system and set fire to a large number of buses and some vehicles of the security forces.

4. The Chinese authorities moved reinforcements of special police units in armoured personnel carriers into Urumqi. The exiles allege that these units indiscriminately fired on the protesters in many places in the city. In the clashes between the students and the security forces, which continued throughout the night of July 5, many were killed. The Xinhua has admitted at least 140 fatalities.

5. The Xinhua report was based on a press briefing on the situation held by the Urumqi authorities on the afternoon of July 6,2009. In the briefing, Liu Yaohua, the police chief of the Xinjiang province, stated as follows:

The death toll has risen to 140 and was still climbing.Fifty-seven dead bodies were retrieved from Urumqi's streets and lanes, while all the others were confirmed dead at hospitals.
At least 828 people were injured.
The rioters set fire to 261 motor vehicles, including 190 buses, 10 taxis and two police cars.
A preliminary investigation showed 203 shops and 14 homes were destroyed in the riot.
The Police have arrested several hundred in connection with the riot, including at least a dozen who were suspected of fanning the unrest.
The police are still searching for about 90 other key suspects in the city. "Police have tightened security in downtown Urumqi streets and at key institutions such as power and natural gas companies and TV stations to prevent large-scale riots."
More than 100 ethnic officials from adjacent areas have been transferred to Urumqi for interrogating the suspects according to law.

6. The World Uighur Congress has strongly denied Chinese allegations that it had instigated the violent incidents by disseminating through the Internet exaggerated accounts of the Guangdong incident. In a statement issued from Munich, it has stated as follows: " Instead of addressing the legitimate demands of the peaceful Uighur protesters, the Chinese authorities responded to quell the protest with the deployment of four kinds of police (regular police, anti-riot police, Special Police and the People's Armed Police (PAP)). The Special Police and PAP used tear gas, automatic rifles and armored vehicles to disperse the Uighur protesters. During the crackdown, some were shot to death, and some were beaten to death by the Chinese police. Some demonstrators were even crushed by armored vehicles near Xinjiang University, according to eyewitnesses."

7. While the Chinese authorities have admitted only 140 fatalities, Uighur exile sources allege that there were at least 600 fatalities as a result of the indiscriminate firing by the security forces.

8.On July 6,2009, there were reports of protest demonstrations in other towns of Xinjiang too, but the violence has remained confined to Urumqi.

9. Till now, the local Chinese authorities in Urumqi have been blaming “ethnic separatists” for the riots and not jihadi fundamentalist elements.(6-7-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )