China’s policy of encouraging Han residents to head west into Xinjiang province or populate the region of Tibet was bound to eventually result in a backlash from local residents who are gradually finding themselves a minority in their own country. There were numerous confrontations between native Uighurs and Han settlers which resulted in the death of many Hans by angry Uighurs. Latest reports indicate mobs of Hans armed with clubs and chains are surging through Urumqi yelling “Attack Uighurs,” and “Defend Stability, protect the motherland.” The Hans argue they were attacked by the Uighurs and now it is time to repay them with violence. The local Communist party chief, Wang Lequan, warned the struggle was far from over and new violence should be expected.
Among the protests were hundreds of Uighurs, mostly women and children, who were demanding release of their fathers and brothers. Authorities have imprisoned about 1,400 people, and most probably are Uighurs. The Chinese government blames Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the exiled World Uighur Congress for instigating the violence. Chinese authorities believe the goal of Uighur leaders is to create an independent nation and leave China.
For some reason, unlike the violence in Tibet, the Chinese government is offering more extensive freedom for the media to report what is happening. Perhaps, the next step is for China to offer greater local self government to regions like the Uighurs or Tibetans.
We should not ignore that Xinjiang covers a sixth of China and contains oil, gas, and coal deposits.