Hu Says China Will Deal Harshly With Instigators

More than 150 people have been killed in rioting in China's northwestern Xinjiang region, with the government blaming exiled separatists for the traditionally Muslim area's worst case of unrest in years.
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 10, 2009

URUMQI, China, July 9 -- Chinese President Hu Jintao and other top leaders of the Communist Party vowed Thursday to severely punish those responsible for the bloody, ethnically charged clashes this week in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Hu, in his first public comments about the crisis, said local authorities should "isolate and deal a blow to the small group" responsible for killing 156 people and injuring more than 1,000 in attacks that pitted the dominant Han Chinese against the Muslim Uighur minority that used to dominate this area.

"Preserving and maintaining the overall stability of Xinjiang is currently the most urgent task," Hu, chief of the country's Communist Party, and the other eight members of the group's ruling Politburo, said in a statement released by the official New China News Agency.

The regional capital, Urumqi, was calm Thursday for the second day in a row as police and military troops patrolled by foot, truck and armored personnel carrier. Helicopter surveillance continued overhead.

Slogans aimed at calming residents could be heard and seen all over the city. Loudspeakers blared messages such as "keep social order" and "maintain public security." Red signs posted on apartment buildings urged the public, "Don't listen to any rumors." Police trucks were covered in banners that said: "Oppose ethnic separatism and hatred."

Hu abandoned the Group of Eight summit in Italy on Wednesday to return to China to deal with the crisis. Since then, local officials in Xinjiang have said they will seek the death penalty for those responsible for the violence.

A number of countries have urged China to respect human rights while dealing with the crisis, and Turkey has gone a step further by calling for the U.N. Security Council to help stop the violence. On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang dismissed the issue, saying that the problems in Xinjiang are an internal affair.

The violence began Sunday after a demonstration by Uighurs -- upset over a stalled investigation into the deaths of two Uighur factory workers -- erupted into riots. The clashes spread through the city, and some violence was reported in other areas of Xinjiang. Since then, the government has blanketed the region with security forces to restore order.

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