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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BEIJING1868 2009-07-05 11:27:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
Cable title:  

140 DEAD IN URUMQI RIOTS, DEATH TOLL MAY GO

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PROP CH 
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VZCZCXRO6630
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #1868/01 1861127
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 051127Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5033
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 001868 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/06/2034
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PROP CH
SUBJECT: 140 DEAD IN URUMQI RIOTS, DEATH TOLL MAY GO
HIGHER, STATE MEDIA SAYS ORDER RESTORED

Classified By: Classified by Acting Political Minister Counselor
Ben Moeling. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

SUMMARY
-------



1. (C) During the course of July 6, China's official media
steadily revised upward the death toll from July 5 rioting in
Urumqi, Xinjiang, to 140. The Xinhua News Agency warned the
final figure could be higher. 828 people were injured and
police have made "hundreds" of arrests, the agency reported.
Similar to the pattern of the March 2008 Tibet riots, Chinese
officials placed blame for the unrest on outside "separatist
forces." After news of the riots broke the evening of July
5, a political officer traveled to Urumqi the morning of July


6. He observed a heavy presence of both regular police (gong
an) and People's Armed Police in riot gear. PolOff witnessed
the detention of several Uighur men near the Uighur quarter
of the city. Access to some Uighur areas of the city were
blocked by police as of the late afternoon of July 6. Post
issued a warden message to advise Amcits to avoid travel to
Xinjiang. End Summary.

HUNDREDS ARRESTED


--------------------------





2. (U) China's official media reported that 140 people died
as a result of rioting July 5 in Urumqi, capital of the
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The Xinhua News
Agency reported the afternoon of July 6 that the death toll
was "still climbing." Earlier Xinhua reports stated that one
People's Armed Police (PAP) officer was among the dead. 828
people were injured, according to Xinhua, and 203 shops and
14 homes were destroyed. Rioters also burned 261 vehicles,
including 190 buses, 10 taxis, and two police cars, the
agency said. Xinhua quoted a high-ranking XUAR police
official saying that "hundreds" had been arrested including
"at least a dozen" suspected of "fanning the unrest." Police
were still searching for 90 "key suspects," the official told
Xinhua. At 1300 July 6, Xinhua reported that order was
partly restored in Urumqi, "but tension still exists in the
city." The agency said police had set up several road blocks
to prevent rioters from escaping.

"OUTSIDE FORCES TO BLAME"


--------------------------





3. (U) On the morning of July 6, XUAR Chairman Nur Bekri made
a televised statement on the riots. (Note: Nur Bekri is the
equivalent of a provincial governor and is nominally the
second highest official in the XUAR after Communist Party
Secretary Wang Lequan. As of mid-afternoon July 6, Wang had
not made any public statements.) Using rhetoric similar to
that used by Tibet Autonomous Region officials following the
March 14 Lhasa riots, Nur Bekri said the July 5 Urumqi riot
was a premeditated and organized incident of "beating,
smashing, looting, and arson" (da, za, qiang, shao) directed
by the "three forces" ("sangu shili," i.e. separatism,
terrorism, and extremism) from abroad. The XUAR Chairman
said overseas Uighur groups had exploited a June 26 incident
at a toy factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province to foment
unrest. (Note: According to media accounts, a brawl between
ethnic Han and Uighur workers at the Guangdong factory left
two Uighurs dead and 120 injured. )

HEAVY RIOT POLICE, PAP PRESENCE


--------------------------





4. (C) PolOff flew to Urumqi the morning of July 6, arriving
in the early afternoon. Intermittent cell phone and
blackberry service in Urumqi seemed to bear out anecdotal
reports that the government was restricting mobile networks
in areas of the city. PolOff reported a heavy presence of
riot police (gong an) and PAP troops in Urumqi. At
approximately 1400 on the afternoon of July 6, PolOff
observed approximately 500 PAP troops carrying rifles and in
full riot gear staging in central Urumqi, just north of the
Grand Bazaar. Riot police were shouting at bystanders not to
take photographs. PolOff observed that streets were largely
quiet save for several ambulances. Police appeared to have
blocked off a section of the Uighur quarter of the city near
Jiefang Road, an area that state media described as a center
of the rioting. In two separate places near Uighur
neighborhoods, PolOff observed police rounding up Uighur men
in their 20s and 30s. In both instances the police pushed
the Uighur men to the ground, threatened to club them, and
proceeded to lace their hands and march them off. Most
Urumqi and Han residents with whom PolOff spoke cited the
June 26 incident in Guangdong as sparking the riot. Several
residents reported hearing gunfire the night of July 5 and

BEIJING 00001868 002 OF 002


had heard of numerous deaths. Uighurs asserted to PolOff
that the deaths were the result of Han violence against
Uighurs while Han residents, in turn, said the violence had
been directed at them.



5. (U) China's media largely restricted itself to reprinting
official news agency accounts of the violence in Urumqi. The
website of Xinhua's English service provided more up-to-date
and detailed accounts than Xinhua's Chinese service. On the
Chinese language websites of Xinhua and People's Daily,
stories about the Urumqi riot were placed far below "top
stories" such as President Hu Jintao's trip to the G8 Summit
in Italy and Premier Wen Jiabao's inspection tour of Shanxi
Province. Commercial websites such as Baidu, however,
treated the riot as the top news story of the day. The
Urumqi violence was the lead story in China National Radio's
(Zhongguo Renmin Guangbo Diantai) morning news cast. The
radio report placed the blame for the riot on exile Uighur
businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer and the World Uighur Congress.
China Central Television (CCTV) ran video of bloodied Urumqi
residents, burning busses, and rioters overturning a police
car.

Embassy Issues Warden Message


--------------------------





6. (U) Embassy Beijing issued a warden message July 6 warning
of unrest in Urumqi and advising Americans to defer travel to
Xinjiang.

Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) The death toll from the Urumqi riot is already several
times the 22 officially acknowledged deaths in the Lhasa
riots of March 2008. Unlike in Tibet, when rioting quickly
spread to other communities, Post has not heard reports of
these riots spreading to other towns in Xinjiang. However,
as Nur Bekri's remarks indicate, Communist Party leaders are
again attempting to place the blame for this latest round of
ethnic unrest on "outside forces" and showing no signs of
examining underlying economic and social factors.


GOLDBERG