Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Reports: Unrest in China's Xinjiang kills 35

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
June 28, 2013 -- Updated 0348 GMT (1148 HKT)
A policeman patrols the road leading into the riot-affected town of Lukqun, Xinjiang province on Thursday.
A policeman patrols the road leading into the riot-affected town of Lukqun, Xinjiang province on Thursday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Fatalities include 16 Uyghurs and two police officers
  • State media say "knife-wielding mobs" attacked government buildings
  • But Uyghur advocacy groups express doubts about the official account
  • Ethnic tensions exist between Han Chinese and Turkic-speaking Uyghurs

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Violence in the restive western Chinese region of Xinjiang has left 35 people dead, state media reported, but overseas Uyghur groups questioned the official version of events.

Frequent outbreaks of violence have hit Xinjiang, a resource-rich region where the arrival of waves of Han Chinese people over the decades has fueled tensions with the Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim ethnic group.

The latest bout of unrest took place early Wednesday in the remote township of Lukqun, about 250 kilometers southeast of the regional capital of Urumqi, Chinese state-run media reported.

"Knife-wielding mobs attacked the township's police stations, the local government building and a construction site, stabbing people and setting fire to police cars," state-run newspaper China Daily reported, attributing the information to officials with Xinjiang's regional committee of the ruling Communist Party.

The official broadcaster CCTV posted pictures of burnt out cars in front of a police station whose facade was singed black in places.

Twenty-four people were killed by rioters, including 16 Uyghurs and two police officers, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Police shot and killed 11 rioters and captured four others, who were wounded, the news agency said.

Xinhua called the event a "terrorist attack," a common description by Chinese authorities for violence in Xinjiang involving Uyghurs.

Doubts raised

"The official reports, however, must be questioned in view of the inability to independently verify this narrative," said the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), a Germany-based Uyghur advocacy group.

The WUC said it had tried to gather more information about the events, but "all Uyghur telecommunications have been shut down" in Turpan, the prefecture where Lukqun is situated.

The China Daily article didn't say what had caused the riots, and Xinjiang government officials didn't respond to phone calls from CNN seeking comment. Efforts to reach people and businesses in Lukqun were unsuccessful.

The state-media account of what happened also didn't mention the ethnicity of those involved in the riots.

But the WUC suggested that Chinese authorities' use of the standard term "knife-wielding mobs" to describe the rioters was an indication they were Uyghurs.

It called upon authorities "to independently investigate the incident and its root causes, and to alleviate the legitimate concerns of Uyghurs so as to avert such incidents in the future."

The Uyghur American Association said it "urges the international community to exercise caution over details" of the events.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday that the ministry was "seeking information from relevant departments" on the matter.

Simmering tensions

Uyghurs have complained of discrimination by the Han Chinese and harsh treatment by security forces in Xinjiang, despite official promises of equal rights and ethnic harmony.

The worst violence in decades took place in July 2009, when rioting between Uyghurs and Han Chinese left around 200 people dead and 1,700 injured in Urumqi. That unrest was followed by a heavy crackdown by security forces.

Tensions have continued to simmer.

In April this year, clashes killed 21 people in Xinjiang's Kashgar Prefecture. Regional government officials called those events "a terrorist act" carried out by "mobsters," an account that overseas Uyghur groups disputed.

"The increasing frequency with which these incidents occur illustrates the PRC's reticence to address the root causes of the tensions that are escalating," the WUC said, using an abbreviation of People's Republic of China.

"There is an ever pressing need for the PRC to afford linguistic, cultural and religious freedoms, as well as ceasing politically-motivated arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killing, in order to alleviate the recurrence of these needless and avoidable events," the group said.

CNN's Dayu Zhang in Beijing contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0631 GMT (1431 HKT)
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0414 GMT (1214 HKT)
Hong Kong's narrow streets were once a dazzling gallery of neon, where banks and even bordellos plied their trade under sizzling tubular signs.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
Three more officials have been given the chop as part of China's anti-corruption drive, including former aides to the retired security chief.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
As thousands of Hong Kongers prepare for an annual protest, voices in China's press warn pro-democracy activism is a bad idea.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 0437 GMT (1237 HKT)
Hong Kongers are demanding the right to directly elect their next leader, setting up a face-off with Beijing.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0656 GMT (1456 HKT)
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0836 GMT (1636 HKT)
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0334 GMT (1134 HKT)
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
June 19, 2014 -- Updated 0638 GMT (1438 HKT)
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 0812 GMT (1612 HKT)
Hong Kongers have reacted angrily to a Chinese government white paper affirming Beijing's control over the territory.
The emphasis on national glory -- rather than purely personal achievement -- is key.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
June 11, 2014 -- Updated 0013 GMT (0813 HKT)
Rapid development hasn't just boosted the economy -- it has opened up vast swathes of the country, says a man who has spent much of his life exploring it.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0654 GMT (1454 HKT)
The World Cup is apparently making a lot of people "ill" in China.
ADVERTISEMENT