What really happened at Urumqi on July 5

    The recent violent crimes involving beating, smashing, looting, and arson in Urumqi, capital city of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in North West China, have drawn much attention of the international community. A large number of innocent civilians and armed policemen were killed and many others injured.

    What is the reality of this incident? In the evening of July 5, 2009, gangs of rioters, many with clubs, knives, and stones rampaged into streets and small lanes in the city and on the outskirts of Urumqi from different directions. The rioters assaulted people they saw, set fire to buildings, and smashed or burned vehicles and shops they came up to. They committed brutal violence on 220 sites and caused severe casualties and property loss.

    Even pregnant women and young girls were not spared. According to statistics by 11 p.m., July 10, the riot left 184 people dead, 1080 injured, 260 vehicles damaged, and 209 shops and 2 blocks of building burnt down with 56,850 square meters of floor space scorched.

    In order to protect the people's life and property and to maintain social stability at Urumqi, the government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region took decisive actions in time to rescue the injured and to track down and arrest the outlaws. As soon as the riot occurred, the Chinese government facilitated access to Urumqi by the foreign media in the hope that the international community could find out what really happened there.

    The situation has been brought under control and efforts are being made to deal with the aftermath of the violence. The temporary traffic curfew has been lifted and life in the city has returned to normal.

    The background to the incident, which did not happen by chance, is complex. On June 26, a brawl took place in a toy factory in Shaoguan City, Guangdong Province between migrant workers from Xinjiang and local workers. That was a non-criminal case related to public order and was settled in a timely and just way. But the World Uyghur Congress, an overseas East Turkestan organisation headed by ethnic separatist Rebiya Kadeer, used the incident to stir up ethnic antagonism. It tried to instigate insurgencies through the Internet and other channels, calling for "bolder actions" and "something big".

    Asserting that "something serious will happen in Urumqi on 5 July," Rebiya Kadeer asked her followers to pay close attention to what was going on. Deplorably, some people with ulterior motives inside the country colluded with the World Uyghur Congress and began to post appeals on the Internet on the night of July 4. They called on people to gather at the South Gate and Renmin Square of Urumqi by 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoon for a "demonstration" in response to the call of the World Uyghur Congress. Such evidence shows that the riot was a premeditated and organised violent crime committed by separatists within the country, but with remote manipulation and instigation by separatist forces from abroad.

    On the second day of the riot, more than 150 "Eastern Turkestan" activists attacked the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands, damaging Embassy facilities and posing a severe threat to the staff and property. The Chinese Consulate-General in the German city of Munich was also attacked by unidentified persons. Was not this further evidence that Eastern Turkestan groups from within and outside China are working in collusion to undermine the unity and stability of the country?

    "But haven't the World Uyghur Congress and Rebiya Kadeer always claimed that they are never involved in violence and terrorism?" is a question that is sometimes raised. Those claims are false. This year, the World Uyghur Congress has been preparing for its third conference, which, according to Rebiya Kadeer, will work out plans of infiltration and sabotage targeting the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Furthermore, a "three-step initiative for Xinjiang independence in 50 years" has also been plotted.

    People may wonder what China has to say about the concerns of some foreign human rights groups that those arrested might face unfair trial or even persecution by the Chinese government. Why are these so-called human rights advocacy groups not expressing any sympathy for those innocent civilians who fell victim to the brutal criminals? It is precisely to protect the life and property of people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang that the Chinese law enforcement departments arrested law-breakers with legal procedures. No government in the world will sit idle watching innocent people being killed or allow such serious violence to happen without taking any action. China is a law-based country and all criminals will be punished in strict accordance with the law.

    Will China change its ethnic policy? It is a multi-ethnic country. Historically, various ethnic groups in the country have shared weal and woe and forged a close and interdependent kinship as one united people. We take a clear-cut stance in opposing national secessionism and terrorist acts. This is for the sake of national unity and social harmony and stability and is in the utmost interest of the Chinese people, including the 21 million residents of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

    Xinjiang today is seeing vigorous development in various aspects. The people there enjoy a peaceful life with unity and harmony among different ethnic groups. This has been made possible through our adherence to the policy of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities. What has just happened in Urumqi was surely against our will. But the incident indicates more than ever that we must redouble our efforts to safeguard the favourable conditions on which people of all ethnic groups can work in unity and pursue common prosperity. We are determined to cherish social and political harmony and stability, and stay firmly committed to the existing ethnic policy.

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