Recalling the nightmare: witnesses' account of Xinjiang riot
www.chinaview.cn 2009-07-06 18:20:46   Print

Firemen put out a fire in Dawannanlu Street in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 5, 2009.

Firemen put out a fire in Dawannanlu Street in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 5, 2009. (Xinhua/Shen Qiao)
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    URUMQI, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Returning to his Geely automobile store, Guo Jianxin was still frightened by the nightmare Sunday.

    "Fortunately I managed to leave," said the general manager of the store in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

    "It was about 10 p.m. and I found rioters outside," he said. The manager called more than 20 workers from the store, who had already left after a day's work.

    "I asked them to help protect the store, but there were too many rioters...more than 100, holding knives, clubs and stones," said Guo, an ethnic Hui.

    Failing to dissuade the rioters from entering the store, Guo led his workers to flee. They hid on a hill beside the store.

    The three-storey building was ablaze, while more than 30 new cars in the store were all torched. One worker's arm was broken and he was sent to hospital.

    Opposite the store was a shop owned by a Han couple. They told Xinhua reporter that they saw rioters on the streets after 10 p.m., immediately shut the door and escaped.

    When they returned, the couple found that their shop was burned, some 20,000 yuan (2,941 U.S. dollars) and a camera in the counter was gone.

    But they didn't complain much. Next door, a young worker from the southwestern Sichuan Province was beaten to death.

Photo taken on July 5, 2009 shows a shop being burned in a street of Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Photo taken on July 5, 2009 shows a shop being burned in a street of Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.(Xinhua/Sadat)
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    IN THE HOSPITAL

    China is shocked by a death toll of 140 which is still climbing. Rioters also burned 261 motor vehicles, including 190 buses, at least 10 taxis and two police cars, Sunday evening in the city.

    The People's Hospital, one of the biggest hospitals in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, treated 291 riot victims, among whom 17died later.

    Among them, 233 were Han Chinese, 39 were Uygurs, while the rest were from other ethnic minorities like Hui and Kazak, said Wang Faxing, president of the hospital.

    In the ICU wards on the 13th floor, more than 20 seriously injured were being treated. They, all in comas, had wounds to the head or the chest and limbs.

    Zhu Haifeng is a 16-year-old student from the No. 43 Middle School, who was assaulted on the way home after school. He was knocked on the head and his eyes were swollen.

    According to an unnamed doctor, Zhu's parents had been looking for him after the riot, but failed to contact him via mobile phone as the line was cut temporarily.

    "When they found their fainted son, they could hardly recognize him," said the doctor.

    The 48-year-old Li Quanli with bandages around his head is a police officer. Seeing several Uygur youngsters smashing a No. 7 bus, he hurried to stop them, but was surrounded and beaten.

    SCENES WITNESSED BY XINHUA REPORTERS

    People began to gather in the Urumqi People's Square at 6:20 p.m. Sunday, and some started smashing and looting at about 8 p.m..

    Xinhua reporters saw at about 10 p.m. at the crossing of Xinhua South Road and Tianchi Road that a police station was damaged. A group of young men, appearing to be from ethnic minorities, were chanting slogans and wielding wooden clubs, while several others were distributing hoes.

    Then rioters destroyed barriers on the road and began chasing Han Chinese. Many bus windows were smashed. Some Han passengers were surrounded and beaten as soon as they got off the bus. Many were left with blood dripping down their faces.

    Under a viaduct on the Tuanjie Road, Xinhua reporters saw a man who had been killed by rioters, and some steps away, a dead woman carrying a handbag lay on her stomach.

    They also saw a big wine shop ablaze. In the blaze, window glass blew out, with a loud noise. Later they saw a taxi which had been stopped by rioters, and was now parked on the road. Inside was a Han driver. He was covered in blood. Witnesses couldn't say for sure whether he was alive or dead.

    A 36-year-old woman, whose face was covered by blooded, was wailing while running with her daughter and husband. Xinhua reporters sent her to a hospital.

    When the armed police finally arrived and brought the riot under control, many onlookers, Hans and Uygurs alike, hurrahed.

    BLOOD-TAINTED STREET

    Liu Jie is owner of a supermarket in the Houquan street, which lost more than 900,000 yuan in the riot.

    In the street, five buses and four cars were burned and a driver was missing, said the lady in her 30s, who was still quivering and crying. Her hands and legs were black from dust and ashes.

    "Rioters came at 7:50 p.m....altogether five groups," she said. Next door to the supermarket was a training center. Liu and more than 100 students from the center hid in the basement of the supermarket as rioters were overturning the shelves and smashing bottles.

    Then someone set fire to the market, and those in the basement moved to the yard. "We were scared to death," she sobbed. But nobody dared to go out.

    At about 2 a.m. Monday when they heard that police enter, they shouted "help" and were rescued.

    When they came out, Liu saw many people lying in the street. "Blood was everywhere," she said.

    Xinhua reporters saw in the street that wheels of two cars were still on fire as of Monday noon.

    Several blocks away in the Zhongquan street, within 100 meters there were more than 20 blood stains and some bricks with blood and hair and something like skin on them.

    Pointing at a big pool of blood, Ezmad Abla, vice director of the construction bureau of Tianshan district in Urumqi, said that there was so much blood that if it came from one man then maybe he was dead.

    A few meters away from the blood was a burnt tree, under which a car was torched.

    "The dead person could be the driver, or just a passer-by," he sighed.

An injured man is carried to an urgent care center in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 5, 2009.

An injured man is carried to an urgent care center in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 5, 2009.(Xinhua/Shen Qiao)
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    BLOGGER'S PHOTOS

    A blogger, who claimed to have witnessed the tragedy, posted some photos on China.com.

    One of the photos seemed to be the aftermath of the riot. In the dim lamp light, dozens of people were standing, while six or seven people, or bodies, were lying in the road.

    On another, a middle-aged man in a white shirt was trying to stop blood bleeding from a young man, who lay on his back on the road with blood on his neck, on his white shirt and on the ground.

    STILL IN ANXIETY

    Although traffic control was lifted Monday morning in parts of Urumqi and debris has been cleared from the roads, residents were still trembling in fear.

    In the streets most of the shops were still closed and many chose to stay at home rather than going to work.

    "We don't feel safe," said an unnamed woman with a stock company.

    A Mr. Zhao in his late 30s worked late on Sunday to send the injured to hospital.

    "Although the riot was over, I have unspeakable worry," he said.

    His worry was partially from social order. "Is the riot really over?"

    Also, he worried about how the government would deal with their losses, as his car was damaged by wooden and steel sticks yielded by rioters.

    "Who will compensate us?" he asked.

Urumqi Riot

Death toll in Xinjiang riot rises to 140

    URUMQI, July 6 (Xinhua) -- The death toll has risen to 140 following Sunday night's riot in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the regional government said Monday. Full story

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    URUMQI, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Traffic control was partially lifted Monday morning in parts of Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region after a deadly riot late Sunday, but tension still exists in the city. Full story

Commentary: Riot a catastrophe for Xinjiang

    BEIJING, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Sunday's deadly riot in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region bruised the beautiful city of Urumqi and shocked the world, barely 16 months after the nightmarish Lhasa violence that still clings to many Chinese minds. Full story

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Backgrounder: Previous unrests in China's Xinjiang region

Editor: Wang Yan
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