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Feature: Urumqi licks its wounds on riot anniversary

English.news.cn   2014-07-05 14:27:21

URUMQI, July 5 (Xinhua) -- While the whole world was watching the Germany-France FIFA World Cup game in the early hours of Saturday morning, people in Urumqi were more concerned about what might happen at daybreak.

On the same date of 2009, nearly 200 people were killed and another 1,700 injured in fatal rioting that broke out in the city, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China.

Terrorism has ever since become an outstanding matter in Urumqi, as fatal attacks have never ceased. Hard-line actions have been carried out in the city, as an effort to secure stability and combat terrorism.

A terrorist attack on a downtown open-air market on May 22 left 31 people dead and 94 others injured. According to the city government, it is impossible to eliminate potential security risks at such cramped and crowded venues.

The city has tightened security checks to the highest level at airports, railway and bus stations, shopping malls, schools and kindergartens. One has to go through a body scanner before entering a public square or park.

"We are getting used to it and totally understand the complication. After all, we are a part of the city and have to accept what is going on in front of us," said Chen Huaming, a Urumqi retiree.

In another attack in the city on April 30, three people were killed and 79 injured at a railway station. Local authorities have stepped up controls on the mobile population, rental homes and hotels.

"Though it is tough, we are trying to lead a life as normal as before," said a supermarket cashier wearing a bulletproof vest.

Terrorist attacks carried out by separatists and extremists from Xinjiang have also become more frequent outside of the region. A string of violent attacks including one at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming this March and another at Tiananmen Square in Beijing last October have frightened tourists away from visiting Xinjiang, a region with incomparably abundant tourism resources.

"You never know how calm and safe it is in Xinjiang until you really visit it," said Yang Guang, a tourist from Shanghai who could not resist the temptation of rock-bottom hotel prices and an air ticket sold at a discount of 70 percent.

"Local Han people are no different to us while Uygurs are more welcoming and enthusiastic than you think," Yang added.

Out of an approximate 20 million population in Xinjiang, Han people account for about eight million and the rest are mainly composed of Uygur and other ethnic minorities.

Like most backpackers, Yang took many pictures of local food and scenery and posted them on his WeChat account. The convenient and ubiquitous WiFi access in today's Xinjiang contrasts with the Internet-free 10 months in the wake of the 2009 riot.

"We have been there -- having no access to the outside world and just sitting there doing nothing, so we cherish the current Internet access more than anyone," said a Urumqi resident.

However, for those who run businesses in the city's Grand Bazaar, which was the epicenter of the rioting, a sharp drop in customer flow has hit them hard.

"I used to receive over 200 customers with an average spend of 500 yuan (80 U.S. dollars) a day, but now I have almost no customers and a meager turnover," said Gulnar, a Uygur shop owner.

But she is confident about the future. "No one feels insecure or threatened here. I believe tourism in Xinjiang will pick up, so I come to open the shop early every day," Gulnar said. Enditem

Editor: Luan
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