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Arab China watcher: Xinjiang riot no big impact on racial harmony
Updated: 2009-07-17 21:20

BEIJING: An Arab China expert Friday rebuffed claims that the July 5 Urumqi riot was a conflict between Han and Uygur people, saying it would have little influence on the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups in China.

Gaafar Ahmed, a Sudanese scholar on China and Sino-Arab issues, who has lived in China for 15 years, condemned overseas reports exaggerating the riot in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region as "an attack on Muslims."

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Arab China watcher: Xinjiang riot no big impact on racial harmony Riot in Urumqi

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"It's ridiculous and unacceptable. Such sporadic violence can happen in any country, and it has nothing to do with racial or religious conflicts," Gaafar said.

Gaafar, who has a doctorate from Peking University, is a researcher at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University.

"What happened in Urumqi has been amplified by separatist forces who plotted to undermine ethnic unity. The Chinese people I know are all against violence, no matter they are Hans or Uygurs.

"I've travelled a lot in China, and I often found both Islamic mosques and Buddhist temples in the same place. Chinese people with different faiths and of different ethnic groups get along well. I have never seen any racial conflicts," said Gaafar.

The riot left at least 192 people dead and most mosques in the area were closed. As the social order in the region gradually returns to normal, all the mosques in the regional capital of Urumqi were open Friday.

Gaafar said the Arab world condemned the rioters and had faith in the capability of the Chinese government.

"The government's policy on ethnic affairs has guaranteed the development of minority ethnic groups and Xinjiang is one of the beneficiaries. The lives of Uygurs, Tajiks, Kazaks and Hans in Xinjiang have been improved dramatically," Gaafar said.

"As for Uygurs, it's for their best interests to peacefully coexist with all the 55 other ethnic groups in China and seek common prosperity."

Xinjiang's GDP increased from about 117 billion yuan (US$17 billion) in 1999 to more than 352 billion yuan (US$51.5 billion) in 2007, an 14.8 percent year-on-year increase.

The per capita disposable income of Xinjiang urban residents ran to about 10,000 yuan (US$1,460) in 2007, almost twice as much in 1999, according to the Blue Book of Economic Development in Western China released last week.

Gaafar also said China had been making great contributions to the world's development, through promoting economic exchanges among all nations, offering aid and dealing with the global financial crisis.

"Any social unrest in China does no good to other countries. A stable and prosperous China is to the world's advantage," said Gaafar.