Curfew reimposed in riot-torn capital of Xinjiang province

URUMAQI: A night-time curfew has been reimposed in the restive western Chinese city of Urumqi, officials have announced. The curfew had been suspended for the last two days after officials said they had the city under control. The authorities had announced the city would be under curfew today from 1100 GMT.

Mosques in the city were ordered to remain closed today — but at least two opened at the request of crowds of Muslim Uighurs that gathered outside. The city remains tense after Sunday’s outbreak of ethnic violence that killed 156 people and wounded more than 1,000. Thousands of people are reportedly trying to leave the city.

A curfew was imposed on Urumqi earlier in the week, but it was suspended after the authorities said they had the city under control.

News of the curfew comes as hundreds of Muslim Uighurs defied an order to stay at home for Friday prayers.

They gathered outside a number of mosques in the city demanding to be allowed in. It appears their demands were met without challenge.

“We decided to open the mosque because so many people had gathered. We did not want an incident,” a policeman outside the White Mosque in a Uighur neighbourhood told the Associated Press. Earlier, officials posted notices outside Urumqi’s mosques, instructing people to stay at home to worship on Friday, the holiest day of the week in Islam. One official told AP the decision was made “for the sake of public safety”.

Meanwhile, the city’s main bus station is reported to be heaving with people trying to escape the unrest.

Extra bus services have been laid on and touts are charging up to five times the normal face price for tickets, the AFP reports.

Many are university students, who have been told to leave the city earlier than they might have planned.

The violence began on Sunday when Uighurs rallied to protest against a deadly brawl between Uighurs and Han several weeks ago in a toy factory in southern Guangdong province. Officials say 156 people - mostly Han Chinese - died in violence on Sunday.

Ethnic Han vigilante groups have been threatening to take revenge, leaving many Uighurs afraid to leave their homes. The atmosphere remains tense, with troops in place across the city and armed police surrounding Uighur neighbourhoods. More than 1,400 people are thought to have been detained.

Tensions have been growing in Xinjiang for many years, as Han migrants have poured into the region, where the Uighur minority is concentrated.

Many Uighurs feel economic growth has bypassed them and complain of discrimination and diminished