Han Chinese mob takes to the streets in Urumqi in hunt for Uighur Muslims
Thousands of Chinese protesters armed with axes, machetes and hammers have taken to the streets in Urumqi, Xinjiang, in an escalation of the violence that has claimed 156 lives so far.
By Peter Foster in Urumqi
Published: 9:03AM BST 07 Jul 2009
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Han Chinese crowd walk holding sticks and other items as they gather in the street in Urumqi Photo: REUTERS
People belonging to the Chinese Uyghur Moslem minority clash with soldiers during a protest in Urumqi, China Photo: EPA
Police set up roadblocks and fired tear gas into the crowd of up to 10,000 people to prevent them reaching People's Square, the heart of the city.
The Han Chinese protesters streamed down North Jiefang road and into the alleys behind a central mosque in a bid to hunt down any local Uighur Muslims.
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Protesters said they were seeking revenge after hearing rumours that ethnic Uighurs had broken into Urumqi's hospitals and killed several patients.
"We want revenge for our dead," the mob chanted, between choruses of the Chinese national anthem. Several groups in cars raced up and down the streets, with people hanging out of the windows.
One woman, armed with a five-foot wooden stake, said: "We heard from the television that Uighurs had killed hundreds of Han Chinese, including children. We cannot bear it anymore. We cannot live our lives in this city. We will show the Uighurs that the Han people can join our hands together also."
Behind her, tear gas canisters skittled and exploded as the crowd waved red flags and shouted "Qian shou!" or "Hold your hands together!" Another man said: "We heard that some Uighurs had broken into the hospital and killed patients. Now we are helping the police to crush the separatists."
Policemen used loudspeakers to urge the mob to "Calm down, don't smash buildings and back off. Let the police do their job." However the crowd showed little sign of dispersing. Waves of excitement rippled through the protesters as local shopkeepers and office workers cheered them on.
Chinese reports suggested the local Han Chinese, unhappy with the level of protection they had received from police, were now taking matters into their own hands.
The riots, which began when a peaceful protest by ethnic Uighurs spiralled out of control on Sunday, appear to be increasingly fuelled by wild rumours spread over the internet and by word of mouth.
Local Uighurs said they had heard that Han Chinese factory workers in Guangdong had killed 600 Uighurs and chopped them into small pieces.
Others claimed that 400 Uighur women had been raped by Han Chinese.
"Our menfolk will never forgive this," said one Uighur woman.
Meanwhile, Han Chinese vented their fury over the internet. "Destroy the conspiracy, strike hard against these saboteurs, and strike even more fiercely than before," said a poster calling himself Chang Qing on Sina.com, one of the most popular portals.
"The blood debt will be repaid. Han compatriots unite and rise up," said another commentator on Baidu.com, a search engine.
Earlier on Tuesday, Wang Lequan, the party secretary of Xinjiang said that although Sunday's unrest had been quelled, "this struggle is far from over". http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... slims.html