Chinese President Visits Volatile Xinjiang

BEIJING — President Hu Jintao has been visiting the volatile western region of Xinjiang for four days, state news media reported Tuesday, in his first trip to the region since deadly rioting in July left scores of people dead and strained relations between ethnic Han and ethnic Uighurs.

According to Xinhua, the state news agency, Mr. Hu visited rural areas and factories; a major oil center; and the regional capital, Urumqi, where the rioting occurred.

On Tuesday, he told government officials and security forces that stability was a top priority in the region. “The key to our work in Xinjiang is to properly handle the relation between development and stability in the region,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.

Reporters gathered in Xinjiang this week in anticipation of the start of trials related to the riots. But an official with the news media office of the local Communist Party headquarters said that he had no information that any such trials would take place this week.

The official, Li Hua, said Tuesday by telephone that a report on Monday in China Daily, a state-run English-language newspaper, had incorrect information on the timeline for the trials. Some Chinese Web sites and foreign news organizations, including The New York Times, ran articles based on the China Daily report.

“Of course they have to be tried, just not according to the timeline of the China Daily story,” Mr. Li said, referring to the scores of men, mostly ethnic Uighurs, charged with taking part in the riots. Mr. Li said he had no information on exactly when the trials would start.

The China Daily article, published on the front page, said that more than 200 suspects had been formally charged with an array of crimes related to the rioting that began on July 5, and that trials were expected to start this week in Urumqi. The article cited an unnamed court official.

It also said the local police had gathered 3,318 pieces of evidence, including bricks and clubs stained with blood.

Some Chinese and foreign reporters have waited in Urumqi for the trials to start. In late July, China Daily had reported that the trials would start in August.

On Tuesday, Global Times, a newspaper published by the Communist Party’s main news organization, reported that the government had not yet set a date for the trial and that the number of suspects remained at 83. Global Times quoted Hou Hanmin, a spokeswoman for the Xinjiang regional government, saying that the China Daily report was “totally untrue.”

The announcement of a trial date on a matter as delicate as the ethnic riots would usually be reported first through Xinhua. But Xinhua had yet to report on any fixed date as of late Tuesday.

The conflicting reports appeared to be an indication of growing competition among official news organizations in China as senior officials encourage more aggressive reporting on topics of international interest.

On July 5, mobs of Uighurs, Turkic-speaking people who make up the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, stormed through the streets of Urumqi after clashes between Uighur protesters and riot police officers. The initial protesters had been holding a rally over the killing of Uighurs in an earlier ethnic brawl at a factory in southeastern China.

In the violence in Urumqi, at least 197 people were killed and 1,721 injured, most of them Han civilians, according to state news organizations. It was the deadliest ethnic riot in China in decades. The Han are the dominant ethnic group in China.

In the days afterward, Han vigilantes armed with sticks and knives went into Uighur neighborhoods to exact revenge.

Uighurs in Urumqi say the government has not given an accurate count of Uighur casualties.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>