/ languages

Choisir langue


Thousands flee Urumqi as unrest continues

Article published on the 2009-07-10 Latest update 2009-07-10 14:17 TU

Chinese soldiers on watch in Urumqi (Photo: Reuters)

Chinese soldiers on watch in Urumqi
(Photo: Reuters)

Thousands of people have been trying to flee Urumqi city amid fears of a further escalation of ethnic violence in the Xinjiang region.

Authorities have laid on extra buses out of the city but demand for seats has far outweighed supply.

One official told AFP news agency that around 10,000 people - both Han Chinese and Muslim Uighurs - had left from the bus station since the weekend's violence, double the normal traffic.

The exodus from the city follows the unrest that started on Sunday when a large protest by the Muslim Uighurs resulted in violent clashes with security forces and the dominant Han ethnic group.

The Chinese government said 156 people were killed and more than 1,000 others injured although Uighurs claimed the figure was much higher.

More violence has followed with Han Chinese vowing vengeance against the Uighurs.

Authorities moved to dispel the unrest by closing all of the city’s mosques for Friday prayers but reports from Urumqi suggest that order was later lifted.

Correspondent Katherine Hille has just returned to Beijing after spending three days in Urumqi. She said the atmosphere was very tense when she arrived on Tuesday but that some residents did try to go back to work.

"Buses were running and everything but then after a few hours rumours spread like crazy that there were new attacks," Hille told RFI. "Bus services stopped and the security presence was stepped up.

Eyewitness: Correspondent Katherine Hille

10/07/2009 by David Page

"Lots of Han Chinese people retreated inside their shops, banks and offices and armed themselves with sticks. Later in the day, groups of Han Chinese took to the streets and were crying for revenge and marching on Uighur residential districts."

In reaction to Tuesday's events, Hille said police greatly bolstered their security presence the following day.

"They called in a lot of soldiers so there was a big show of force on Wednesday morning in the city. Urumqi was a city empty of cars and people, and really scary, but after that things started to gradually get back to normal. So when I left late Thursday evening it looked like the worst was over."

Bookmark and Share