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Recalling the nightmare: Eyewitness accounts of Xinjiang riot
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08:13, July 07, 2009

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When sunshine fell upon the ruins which used to be a supermarket, Liu Jie, the owner, was still frightened by Sunday's nightmare.

The supermarket, in Houquan street, lost more than 900,000 yuan (132,353 U.S. dollars) in the riot.

In the street, five buses and four cars were burned and a driver was missing, said the lady in her 30s, quivering and crying. Her hands and legs were black from dust and ashes.

"Rioters came at 7:50 p.m....altogether five groups," she said. Next door to the supermarket was a training center. Liu and more than 100 students from the center hid in the basement of the supermarket as rioters were overturning the shelves and smashing bottles.

Then someone set fire to the market, and those in the basement moved to the yard. "We were scared to death," she sobbed. But nobody dared to go out.

At about 2 a.m. Monday when they heard that police enter, they shouted "help" and were rescued.

When they came out, Liu saw many people lying in the street. "Blood was everywhere," she said.

Xinhua reporters saw in the street that wheels of two cars were still on fire as of Monday noon.

Several blocks away in Zhongquan Street, within 100 meters there were more than 20 blood stains and some bricks with blood and hair and something like skin on them.

Pointing at a big pool of blood, Ezmad Abla, vice director of the construction bureau of Tianshan district in Urumqi, said that there was so much blood that if it came from one man then maybe he was dead.

A few meters away from the blood was a burnt tree, under which a car was torched.

"The dead person could be the driver, or just a passer-by," he sighed.

Liu Yaohua, head of the public security department, nagged "it was cruel" on the way watching the scene.

"I saw at least 12 bodies covered in blood and 15 destroyed vehicles," he said.

"I had seen some terrorist attacks before, but not as cruel as this time."


People began to gather in the Urumqi People's Square at 6:20 p.m. Sunday, and some started smashing and looting at about 8 p.m.

Xinhua reporters saw at about 10 p.m. at the crossing of Xinhua South Road and Tianchi Road that a police station was damaged. A group of young men, appearing to be from ethnic minorities, were chanting slogans and wielding wooden clubs, while several others were distributing hoes.

Then rioters destroyed barriers on the road and began chasing Han Chinese. Many bus windows were smashed. Some Han passengers were surrounded and beaten as soon as they got off the bus. Many were left with blood dripping down their faces.

The sky of Urumqi turned dark after 10 p.m., but the night was lit up by vehicles torched by rioters.

Under a viaduct on the Tuanjie Road, Xinhua reporters saw a man who had been killed by rioters, and some steps away, a dead woman carrying a handbag lay on her stomach.

They also saw a big wine shop ablaze. In the blaze, window glass blew out, with a loud noise. Later they saw a taxi which had been stopped by rioters, and was now parked on the road. Inside was a Han driver. He was covered in blood. Witnesses couldn't say for sure whether he was alive or dead.

On the Jinyin Road, rioters were beating a woman with wooden sticks, while her son was squatting helplessly by the road, crying "don't beat my mom".

A 36-year-old woman, whose face was covered by blood, was wailing while running with her daughter and husband. Xinhua reporters sent her to a hospital.

Another injured saved by Xinhua was a man.

"I was walking on the road while some Uygurs approached me," he said. "I didn't know why they beat me."

When the driver tried to support him, he rejected the offer politely. "My arm was broken," he said.

"They were beating everybody as if mad," said a guard named Abdulla.

By Monday, the air in the Jinyin Road was still permeated with the smell of rubber burning.

Vehicles from the Xinhua News Agency Xinjiang Bureau were also damaged as rioters tried to smash the windows with clubs. A driver from Xinhua said he sent four injured to hospital Sunday night and the seat of his car is still stained with blood.

When armed police finally arrived and brought the riot under control, many onlookers, Hans and Uygurs alike, hurrahed.


China is shocked by the riot, which was recognized as the most serious with the highest death toll in Xinjiang since the founding of New China in 1949.

The death toll has reached 140 and may climb. Rioters also burned 261 motor vehicles, including 190 buses, at least 10 taxis and two police cars, Sunday evening in the city.

The People's Hospital, one of the biggest hospitals in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, treated 291 riot victims, among whom 17 died later.

Among them, 233 were Han Chinese, 39 were Uygurs, while the rest were from other ethnic minorities like Hui and Kazak, said Wang Faxing, president of the hospital.

According to Jing Haitao, a doctor with the hospital, most patients had traumas, especially to the head.

In a footage from the China Central Television (CCTV), there were so many injured that wards in the hospital could not cope.

Many injured people were shown as lying on beds in the corridors. Many were elderly people, Xinhua reporters saw.

In the ICU wards on the 13th floor, more than 20 seriously injured were being treated. They, all in comas, had wounds to the head or the chest and limbs.

Zhu Haifeng, a 16-year-old student from the No. 43 Middle School, was assaulted on the way home after school. He was knocked on the head and his eyes were swollen.

According to an unnamed doctor, Zhu's parents had been looking for him after the riot.

"When they found their fainted son, they could hardly recognize him," said the doctor.

The 48-year-old Li Quanli with bandages around his head is a police officer. Seeing several Uygur youngsters smashing a No. 7 bus, he hurried to stop them, but was surrounded and beaten.


A blogger, who claimed to have witnessed the tragedy, posted some photos on China.com.

One of the photos seemed to be the aftermath of the riot. In the dim lamp light, dozens of people were standing, while six or seven people, or bodies, were lying in the road.

On another, a middle-aged man in a white shirt was trying to stop blood bleeding from a young man, who lay on his back on the road with blood on his neck, on his white shirt and on the ground.

CCTV carried a footage showing a woman who had fallen down after rioters chased and beat her. While she was lying in the street, many still cast stones at her.

A tourist bus was stopped and torched, according to a CCTV report.


Traffic control was lifted Monday morning in parts of Urumqi and debris has been cleared from the roads.

Armed police in helmets with shields and electrical wands lined the People's Square facing out.

However, residents were still trembling in fear.

At about 7 p.m., the rush hour in the regional capital, few people were seen in the streets.

Most of the shops were still closed on Monday, and a lot of residents chose to stay at home rather than go to work.

"We don't feel safe," said an unnamed woman with a stock company.

A woman surnamed Chen lives in the Changleyuan neighborhood, where a four-storey building was burnt.

"Now the whole neighborhood was panicking," she said. "The adults didn't dare to go to work while the children didn't dare to go out and play. The rioters deliberately disturbed social order and even took people's lives. They were despicable."

A Mr. Zhao in his late 30s worked late Sunday to send the injured to hospital.

"Although the riot was over, I have unspeakable worry," he said.

His worry was partially from social order. "Is the riot really over?"

Also, he worried about how the government would deal with their losses, as his car was damaged by wooden and steel sticks yielded by rioters.

"Who will compensate us?" he asked.

Source: Xinhua

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