The Chinese are angered by the accusation from Turkey's prime minister over the weekend that China's handling of issues involving minorities, as well as the way it has dealt with riots in Urumqi, is "a kind of genocide."
Online forums have been rife with opinions about the matter. According to a poll conducted on huanqiu.com yesterday, 95.6 percent of those surveyed believe that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is showing support to terrorism by making such remarks and issuing a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, head of the World Uyghur Congress, who is accused by the government of plotting the riots.
Many in Xinjiang refuted the claims of Erdogan, who asked China to "give up efforts to assimilate" the country's Uygur minority.
A riot broke out in Urumqi July 5, resulting in more turmoil over the following days, leaving at least 184 dead and more than 1,600 injured, according to government figures.
And an apparent ban on assemblies was still in effect over the weekend, as the Xinhua News Agency reported that a notice posted at the Public Security Bureau of Urumqi said, "Assemblies, marches and demonstrations on public roads and at public places in the open air are not allowed without permission from police."
The Uygur population has increased to more than 10 million from a little over 3 million in 1949, according to Naibijiang Ibrayin, an official with the Political and Legal Committee of Urumqi.
Many Han people have complained that the government imposes family planning on them, while the Uygurs can have as many children as they like.
"Uygurs haven't benefited from the economic boom? Then how did Rebia Kadeer become the richest woman in Xinjiang?" Ibrayin said.
On a Saturday flight from Urumqi to Kashgar, a few Uygur students from the Urumqi Medical College told Global Times reporters that they also learned about Uygur traditional medicines at the school.
The Uygurs have a strong presence in Kashgar, with signs of their culture coming in numerous forms, such as books and music.
"We don't want the Han people to leave," said Maimaiti Aisha, a taxi driver in Kashgar. "I usually made 250 yuan a day before the riots happened, but since then I call it a lucky day if I make only 100 yuan."
"Ask the restaurant owners, they will tell you that Han tourists buy eight of every 10 bowls of beef noodles they cook," Aisha said.
In response to Turkey's criticisms, an anonymous official with the Chinese Foreign Ministry told the Global Times yesterday that "We are following up on the reactions (from Turkey) and will see how the situation develops."
Turkey is a common destination for Uygurs who have emigrated from China, and Turkish pan-Turkic groups see the ethnic group as the easternmost frontier of Turkic ethnicity.
Calling the incident a domestic issue, China on Thursday dismissed Erdogan's proposal to discuss the Xinjiang riots with the United Nations Security Council.
Fang Ning, a researcher at the Institute of Political Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said yesterday that the comments by the Turkish prime minister lacked facts and obscured the issue.
Kocikov Ivan Andrevichi, a professor of international relations at Moscow University, said Turkey's accusations are rooted in the Pan-Turkism movement. Originated in the 19th century, the movement advocated a single empire composed of all Turkish ethnic groups, stretching to Tianshan Mountain in West China.
"Turkey has been the hotbed of such discussions in one way or another," Ivan Andrevichi said. "So it's not surprising that its leader would make such remarks."
Kerry Brown, a senior fellow at the Asia Programme at London-based Chatham House, told the Global Times that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, so the remarks by conservative Prime Minister Erdogan weren't surprising.
"But we cannot predict that Erdogan's words will result in soured ties," Brown said. "Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who recently made a visit to China, regards the economic and trade cooperation with Beijing as a key policy."
A statement from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) said Saturday that the situation in Xinjiang is a matter of China's internal affairs – the response the Chinese government often gives when its "internal" actions are criticized by other nations. The SCO said the measures the government is taking in accordance with the country's laws can restore peace and order in the region.
In addition to death and injuries, a total of 627 vehicles, including buses and police cars, were damaged or torched.
Among the 184 reported deaths, 137 were said to be Han, 26 of whom were women. And 46 Uygurs died, including one woman. A man of Hui descent also died, according to the information office of the regional government.
At least one of the dead was a paramilitary policeman, while 10 other police were seriously injured, according to the Xinjiang Armed Police Forces.
Hunting hiding rioters
Traffic restrictions in some areas of the regional capital remained yesterday. Business in the Grand Bazaar, a key shopping district in downtown Urumqi, remained closed.
An official from the publicity department of the Party Committee in Xinjiang yesterday denied foreign media reports that both Han people and Muslim Uygurs have been "trying to flee the city" after the violence.
"It's normal to see a lot of people leaving at this time when summer vacation begins," the official said. "University students are departing for travel or going back home, just as in previous years.
"More people are going out of Urumqi while fewer tourists are coming in, making the situation seem unusual, but there is no sign that masses of people are trying to flee the city."
Not helping the matter is that tourists are now reluctant to travel in Xinjiang. About 8,000 people canceled their plans to visit Kashgar, according to a local official.
Police are still looking for rioters. More than 200 were arrested Thursday, with at least 70 found in one location.
A police officer who refused to be identified told the Global Times that some of the people arrested said they had agreed on a few hiding places when they were planning to riot.
"The rioters had removed bricks on the roadside so they could use them as weapons to attack," the officer added. "Everything had been planned."
On Tuesday, Dorikun Askarjiang, a senior leader of the World Uyghur Congress, was quoted by Xinhua as saying, "Urumqi is merely just the beginning of the success."
In the East Bazaar of Kashgar, which was closed July 6 and reopened Friday, vendors showed up again, selling all kinds of foods and spices.
Soldiers were also stationed at schools, though they are closed for summer vacation.
Foreign reporters from several news organizations were escorted out of Kashgar, "for safety reasons" Friday, although city officials did not explain what the danger was, Reuters reported.
Source: Global Times