- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2009

BEIJING (AP) — Police in western China have detained another 319 people suspected of being involved in deadly ethnic unrest between Muslim minority Uighurs and the dominant Han Chinese community last month, a state news agency said.

Police in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, said the detentions were made in the city and elsewhere in the far western region, based on information given by the public or obtained in investigations, the official Xinhua News Agency reported late Sunday. It did not say how many of those detained were Uighur or Han Chinese.

The detentions came in addition to earlier announcements by the government that more than 1,600 people have been detained over the July 5 riots in Urumqi that started when police stopped a protest by the Turkic-speaking Uighurs. The Uighurs smashed windows, burned cars and attacked Han Chinese. Two days later, the Han took to the streets and staged retaliatory attacks.

The fighting was China’s worst ethnic violence in decades.

Xinhua said Urumqi police would not say how many ? if any ? of the 1,600 detained earlier have been released, and that suspects will face charges related to the July 5 riot.

The government says 197 people were killed and more than 1,700 were injured in the violence and that most of the victims were Han Chinese.

Uighurs 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 the region by the government, believe the Uighurs should be grateful for Xinjiang’s rapid economic development.

The report of the detentions came as an Internet message purportedly from the leader of an Islamic group fighting Chinese rule in Xinjiang urged Muslims worldwide to attack Chinese interests in retaliation for what it called the oppression of the Uighurs.

The audio recording in the name of Sheik Abdul Haq al-Turkistani was posted on the Internet on Sunday. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.

“They (Chinese) must be attacked inside and outside,” the message said. “Their embassies, consulates and places where they meet should be targeted to kill their men and capture them to exchange them for our prisoners in Eastern Turkistan.” Separatist Uighurs refer to Xinjiang as Eastern Turkistan.

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a notice posted Saturday on its Web site that some Chinese people and facilities in Turkey, whose government has protested China’s treatment of Uighurs since the violence, had been threatened, but it gave no details. It warned Chinese citizens in Turkey “to remain vigilant and … avoid crowded or sensitive places.”

China has repeatedly blamed outside agitators and the influence of the “three evil forces” ? extremism, terrorism and separatism ? but have provided little evidence. Specifically, it has blamed exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer for instigating the July 5 protests.

Kadeer, once a prominent businesswoman, served six years in a Chinese prison on charges of endangering state security before going into exile in the United States in 2005.

Xinhua on Monday released the text of a letter to Kadeer allegedly signed by 12 of her close relatives still living in Xinjiang, including a younger brother and two of her children.

The letter blames Kadeer for the July 5 violence, saying innocent people died “because of you.”

It also accuses her of being ignorant of the current situation in Xinjiang, where government policies have resulted in “many Uighur millionaires and countless high-rises.

“You went from prison straight to America so you don’t know about the many changes in Xinjiang,” said the letter dated July 24. “Now the lives of the masses are very good. As long as one is diligent and hard working, there are no longer any differences between ethnicities.”

There was no way to immediately confirm if the letter was written by Kadeer’s family. Kadeer’s relatives inside China have had a host of legal trouble in recent years ? problems seen by some as reprisals against the activist.

In 2007, one of her sons was jailed for nine years on subversion charges, and two others were convicted of tax evasion a year earlier.

Kadeer said last week 10,000 Uighurs disappeared during the recent crackdown, but a Chinese official called the figure “completely fabricated.”

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