Watch CBSN Live

Islamists Demand Revenge for China Riots

Chinese authorities on Wednesday announced a higher death toll from ethnic riots in a predominantly Muslim western city, after the government warned its overseas workers in Algeria of possible attacks from Islamists.

Chinese companies and workers in Algeria were warned to be on alert after an Islamist Web site called for retaliation to Beijing's crackdown to quell the unrest in Urumqi.

The unrest began July 5 with a protest by Muslim Uighurs that spiraled into violence against Han Chinese. In subsequent days, roaming groups of Han Chinese men launched revenge attacks. The turmoil represents the worst ethnic violence China has seen in decades.

On Wednesday, the Communist Party in Xinjiang province, of which Urumqi is the capital, said the death toll from the ethnic violence had risen to 192 from 184 reported earlier, according to the Xinhua News Agency. The number of people injured also rose to 1,721 from 1,680.

Xinhua said 881 people remained hospitalized, with 66 in critical condition. A total of 331 shops and 627 vehicles were burned down in the unrest.

Chinese authorities have said most of those killed were Han Chinese, though Uighurs say they believe many more of their community were killed in the ensuing government crackdown.

The Uighurs' claims have attracted attention from some Muslim nations.

In recent days, postings on an Islamist Web site in the Arab world suggested killing Han Chinese in the Middle East, noting that large communities of ethnic Chinese laborers work in Algeria and Saudi Arabia.

The Chinese Embassy in Algeria put out a warning late Tuesday to Chinese workers and companies.

"In light of the (riots), the Chinese Embassy in Algeria reminds Chinese-funded companies and personnel to enhance security awareness and strengthen security measures," the notice said.

Urumqi was calm Wednesday, although security was tight, especially near Uighur areas after Monday's fatal shooting of two Uighurs by police. The city government says the two - and a third man, who was wounded - attacked police trying to break up a fight.

China has been worried that the violence could overshadow its good relations with Muslim countries. Turkey has already called the unrest "a kind of genocide." The Turkic-speaking Uighurs share cultural and ethnic bonds with Turks.

China has rejected the genocide comment by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and says the unrest will not harm relations with Muslim countries.

Some roads leading to the Grand Bazaar market in Urumqi remained closed Wednesday, as were jade and carpet shops in the Er Dao Qiao market. A camel and its handler waited for tourists who might want to pose for a photo.

On many street corners, paramilitary police were stationed in clusters of six under camouflage-colored umbrellas, seeking respite from the heat. Platoons of paramilitary police patrolled with bayonets fixed to the end of their rifles and long wooden bats.

Radio stations broadcast public announcements telling residents to carry identification at all times, and to be prepared to have their vehicles searched for weapons or other suspicious items.

State media started running stories saying life had returned to normal. The official Xinhua News Agency reported the latest Harry Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince," opened Wednesday in Urumqi.

(AP Photo/Irwin Fedriansyah)
(Left: Indonesian Muslim activists in front of the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, July 13, 2009, hold signs during a protest condemning the Chinese government for recent killings in China's Uighur populated Xinjiang province.)

The July 5 riots began when Uighurs protesting the death of Uighur factory workers in a brawl in southern China clashed with police. Crowds scattered throughout the city, attacking ethnic Han Chinese and burning cars.

Uighurs, who number 9 million in Xinjiang, have complained about an influx of Han Chinese and government restrictions on their Muslim religion. They accuse the Han of discrimination and the Communist Party of trying to erase their language and culture.

Han Chinese, many of whom were encouraged to emigrate to Xinjiang by the government, believe the Uighurs should be grateful for the region's rapid economic development, which has brought schools, airports and oil wells to the sprawling, rugged region the size of Texas.
By Associated Press Writer Gillian Wong