Though it remains difficult to tell exactly what’s going on, the situation in Xinjiang seems not to have been calmed by the police and military presence on the streets of Urumqi. Since Salon explained the situation yesterday, the number of estimated dead has been revised upward to 156.
The Chinese government has also arrested 1,434 suspects and imposed a curfew in Urumqi, as the ethnic violence has escalated to the worst the country has seen in decades. Uighurs, however, have continued protesting despite -- or perhaps because of -- Beijing’s clampdown.
The Chinese government continues to say that the victims of the violence have mainly been Han inhabitants of the Xinjiang region, where members of the ethnic group (a majority, nationwide) are outnumbered by the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs. The government also blames the violence on the World Uighur Congress, a pro-independence group run by exile Rebiya Kadeer. Kadeer and other Uighurs deny the government’s claim, insisting that the brunt of the violence has fallen on peacefully protesting Uighurs.
Today, Han residents of Urumqi poured into the streets to exact revenge on the city’s Uighurs, armed with sticks, shovels, knives and machetes, and marching through Uighur neighborhoods chanting, “Blood for blood.” A government official apparently pleaded with the Han rioters, unsuccessfully, to “let the government handle this,” and police fired tear gas to break up the crowds.