At least 140 people have been killed and over 800 wounded in riots that erupted in Xinjiang region of Western China, which is being viewed as the worst social violence since the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
According to Xinjiang police, so far 140 people have died in the violence with 816 being injured. The numbers were announced by the state run Xinhua news agency in an unusually swift revelation of the extent of the violence. Police said that the number of dead was expected to rise.
State television said that at least one member of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police had been killed.
In the violence raged between members of the Uighur minority and ethnic Han Chinese through the city of Urumqi throughout Sunday, nearly 3, 000 rioters went berserk, vandalizing buses and overturning police barricades.
The State run TV of China, in one footage, showed cars being burnt and overturned by rioters in streets while, in other footage, showed a group attacking a man, clearly a Han Chinese, who lay bleeding on the street.
Burnt-out buses lay scattered on the streets of Urumqi, the capital of China’s restive, westernmost region of Xinjiang.
The unrest began after crackdown of Chinese security forces on the peaceful protest, said Uighur exile groups.
The law and order could be restored after several hours of the violence by the paramilitary police, which was equipped with tear gas and firing weapons.
The unrest broke out after reports of ethnic fight between Han Chinese and Uighur workers at a toy factory in the southern Guangdong province in which two Uighurs were killed and 188 wounded.
Though it is not known hitherto as to what prompted the violence but it is supposed to have erupted around the time of popular Sunday bazaar when thousands of Uighurs congregate in towns across the region to sell their sheep, goats and horses.
Xinhua said that police arrested several hundred rioters, including more than “10 key figures who fanned the unrest”. The security bureau said that police were still searching for 90 key figures suspected of being behind the single worst day of violence since troops crushed student demonstrations centred on Tiananmen Square in June 1989.