CHINA> Regional
Ravaged by riot, Xinjiang's capital in horror
Updated: 2009-07-07 04:14

URUMQI: It was almost an empty city for Urumqi on Monday, which was still in horror after having been ravaged by a deadly riot Sunday evening.

It was sunny with blue sky and white clouds -- a good day for leisure and outing, but few citizens and cars were seen in the streets of Urumqi, a city of 3.5 million people and capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Local authorities tightened security after the riot that left at least 156 dead and more than 800 others injured. Police sealed off major areas and streets where the riot took place.

"The streets have been cleaned. But last night, they were filled with torched vehicles and stones used by rioters to attack others," said a taxi driver surnamed Hou. "Just look at the broken widows of the roadside shops."

"It used to be a rush hour at 8 p.m. in Urumqi and people would drink beer in those small roadside restaurants, but today, the streets are empty and many restaurants are closed," he said.

Related readings:
Ravaged by riot, Xinjiang's capital in horror Turkey: Bring those responsible for Xinjiang riots to justice
Ravaged by riot, Xinjiang's capital in horror Victims in toy plant brawl condemn Xinjiang riots
Ravaged by riot, Xinjiang's capital in horror Eyewitness accounts of Xinjiang riots

Ravaged by riot, Xinjiang's capital in horror Commentary: Riot a catastrophe for Xinjiang

Local citizens were busy making phone calls or sending text messages to their relatives and friends Monday to comfort each other and advise others to stay indoor as much as possible.

"I didn't dare go outdoors today, although it is Monday and I should go to work," said a woman surnamed Ma who works for a bank. "The bank manager later notified me that I can stay at home because almost no one went to the bank."

At the Xinjiang Autonomous Regional People's Hospital, a 23-year-old Uygur man, who suffered injuries in his head and back, told Xinhua Monday evening that he was still felt dizzy and nervous.

"I was suddenly besieged by a group of young men holding wood clubs and bricks when I was walking to the Erdaoqiao market to visit my elder brother last night. Then they began beating me with no words," said the uneasy-looking man with a pale face, who insisted not being named for fear of revenge. "I saw 2,000 to 3,000 people like them in the streets," he said.

"At that time, I was very, very sad and indignant because I was beaten by men of the same ethnic group. I cannot understand that," he said. "But now, I feel very lucky that I'm still alive because I learned from news reports that so many people died or were injured."

The young man said his medical bills would be covered by the hospital, but he did not dare to tell his brother and his family about his suffering.

"I don't want them to worry about me," he said.

Another witness, a middle-aged man surnamed Hao from a local textile factory who attended to his father-in-law at the hospital, told Xinhua that the rioters were "insane."

"At the beginning, they only beat young men of Han ethnic group, but later, they began to attack people in the streets indiscriminately, regardless of men or women, young or old, Han or Uygur," he said.

During a televised speech Monday morning by Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang autonomous regional government, three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism made use of a fight between Uygur and Han ethnic workers in a toy factory in southern Guangdong Province on June 26, in which two Uygur workers died, to create chaos.

Hao believed it was only an excuse of the rioters.

"They can find another excuse if they really want to create disharmony among different ethnic groups and destabilize the society," he said.