Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Urumqi death toll may be as high as 500, mostly Uyghurs?

Exiled Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer, accused by Beijing of orchestrating this weekend's violence, says she believes the true death toll is more than 500:

Chinese authorities have accused Kadeer of inciting violence between Muslim Uighurs and ethnic Han Chinese, in which at least 156 people have been killed. The riots broke out Sunday in China's Xinjiang region.

Kadeer disputes the number of fatalities, saying she believes at least 500 people have been killed in the riots.

Interestingly, the AP in this article doesn't mention that the 156 figure comes from the Chinese government, despite mentioning Kadeer's opinion of the purported death toll.

Previous Urumqi riots coverage here, here, and here.

Rebiya Kadeer has a pretty interesting story herself, summarized in this Times of India article:

Kadeer has emerged as a somewhat unlikely foe of China's government. In the 1980s and '90s, she became a symbol of the prosperity that China's newly launched market reforms were creating after decades of Communist poverty. The entrepreneurial mother of 11 built up a successful trading company and was named to a prestigious government advisory body. Government officials often took visitors to the department store she founded in Urumqi to show that Uighurs were also getting rich.

Also, in following with my investigation of who exactly has been the victim of the violence (the Chinese government claims it's mostly innocent Han Chinese, the Uyghurs claim it's their people), that same Times of India article gives Kadeer's opinion:

She said she and her organizations mourn the loss of life of both Uighurs and Han Chinese, but she estimated that more than 90 percent of those killed have been Uighurs.

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