- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

URUMQI, China | Incense was lit and paper money burned at the funeral Sunday for a Han Chinese family — a man, his wife and his parents, all killed in last week’s ethnic riots. Three Uighur neighbors approached, standing tentatively apart.

Then one of the neighbors grasped hands with a mourning sister, walked to the altar with her and wailed in sympathy.

It was a small gesture of shared grief on a day when Han Chinese mourned their dead and Uighurs dealt with mounting security and surveillance in the regional capital of Urumqi.

Han and Uighur are struggling to overcome the resentment exposed by the worst ethnic violence in China in decades, July 5 clashes that left 184 people dead. On Sunday, the regional Xinjiang government raised the toll of injured that day to 1,680.

A week after the initial violence, Urumqi remained tense, and neither side seemed to know when or how the two ethnic groups might come to any sense of mutual trust.

The violence began as Uighurs who were protesting the deaths of Uighur factory workers in a brawl in southern China clashed with police in Urumqi. The crowd scattered throughout the city, attacking Han Chinese and burning cars.

Government officials have yet to make public key details about what happened next, including how much force police used to restore order. In later days, vigilante mobs of Han Chinese ran through the city with bricks, clubs and cleavers seeking revenge.

On Sunday, the Xinjiang government raised the injured toll by more than 600 from the previous figure, the official Xinhua news agency said. More than 900 of the injured remained hospitalized, with 74 “on the verge of death.”

State media reported earlier in the week that the fatalities included 137 Han and 46 Uighurs, with one minority Hui Muslim also killed. Uighurs say they think many more from their ethnic group died in the government crackdown.

A member of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo, Zhou Yongkang, toured Xinjiang and urged ethnic groups to “build together a concrete foundation for ethnic unity,” according to Xinhua.

But that will prove far harder after the riots laid bare long-standing tensions between Han and Uighurs.

The Uighurs, about 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 here by the government, think the Uighurs should be grateful for Xinjiang’s rapid economic development, which has brought new schools, highways, airports, railways, natural gas fields and oil wells to the sprawling, rugged region.

Since last week, tens of thousands of Chinese troops have poured into Urumqi and other parts of Xinjiang to impose order. A senior Communist Party official vowed to execute those guilty of murder in the rioting.

On Sunday, Han Chinese began their rites of mourning, which by tradition start seven days after a death, in spite of a ban on public gatherings issued a day earlier.

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