China bans gatherings in Urumqi

URUMAQI: Authorities banned public gatherings in China’s restive Urumqi city as Han Chinese marked a traditional day of mourning today for those who died in ethnic unrest a week earlier.

Police in Urumqi, capital of the northwest Xinjiang region, published a notice on Saturday banning any public gatherings, the official Xinhua news agency reported. “Assemblies, marches and demonstrations on public roads and at public places in the open air are not allowed without police permission,” the notice stated.

It added that police would disperse public assemblies if they took place and take “necessary means” to do so, as well as detain people who resisted orders to stop, Xinhua said. Han Chinese were today expected to commemorate those who died in last Sunday’s unrest that left 184 dead and over 1,000 injured — 137 of the dead were Han, according to government figures.

It is a tradition for Han Chinese to mourn the loss of loved-ones on the seventh day after their death, when relatives perform ceremonies such as burning fake money or invite monks home to chant. The ban showed authorities were extremely concerned about further unrest, after Muslim Uighurs rampaged through the streets and attacked Han Chinese a week ago.

Thousands of Han Chinese then retaliated early in the week, arming themselves with makeshift weapons and marching through parts of Urumqi vowing vengeance against the Uighurs. The mobs attacked some Uighurs but it was unclear if any died at the hands of the vigilantes. Exiled Uighur leaders insist that security forces and Han mobs killed Uighurs after Sunday’s unrest.

Xinjiang’s eight million Uighurs make up nearly half the population of the region, and have long complained of repression and discrimination under Chinese rule. Beijing says its rule in Xinjiang is fair.