As Riot Death Toll Mounts, China Blames Uighur Exiles

Uighur activists claim police opened fire on peaceful demonstration
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2009 3:45 PM CDT
Chinese paramilitary police on patrol in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, Monday, July 6 , 2009.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
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(Newser) – Chinese state media are reporting that 156 people are dead and at least 828 injured and in the western city where clashes broke out between paramilitary police and Uighur demonstrators, Al Jazeera eports. Though the protests in Urumqi, Xinjian province, seemed to have died down, police are said to be patrolling in force and raiding university dorm rooms in search of protest organizers. Internet access and cell phone service in the city have been cut off.

Chinese officials blamed exiled Uighur activists—specifically, Rebiya Kadeer and the World Uighur Congress—for orchestrating the protests from abroad. But "the root cause of the problem is really the Chinese government's long-standing repressive policies," a WUC rep says, adding the violence began when Chinese police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration. Some Urumqi residents say marauding groups of young Uighurs perpetrated much of the violence, attacking Han Chinese.