Violence erupts in China's Xinjiang

BEIJING: Violence broke out Sunday in the capital of China's mainly Muslim northwest region of Xinjiang where an unknown number of people attacked passers-by and torched vehicles, state media reported.

The state news agency Xinhua said police were rushing to restore order in Urumqi, capital of the restive Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Activist groups said thousands of protesters from the Uighur ethnic group had clashed with police and that two people had died.

The information could not be independently verified.

The head of the Japan Uighur Association, Ilham Mahmut, told AFP in Tokyo, citing Internet communications from China, that he had heard that at least 300 people had been arrested.

He said the confrontation involved about 3,000 Uighur and 1,000 police who used electric cattle prods and fired gunshots into the air to try to disband the demonstration.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, said sources told him that more than 100 had been detained.

Mahmut said demonstrators were regrouping to continue the protest. "About 400 people are trying to resume the demonstration," he added.

He said it was sparked by a recent dispute at a toy factory between Chinese and Uighurs over a rumour that Uighurs had abused a Chinese woman.

Xinjiang is home to some eight million Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group, and many of its members say they have suffered political and religious persecution for decades.