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Urumqi residents work to rebuild frayed friendships

SUNDAY'S riot has cast a cloud of fear and uncertainty over the 3.5 million inhabitants of Urumqi.

"I don't want to bring a club with me whenever I go outdoors," said a 47-year-old Han Chinese man surnamed Yu, referring to a demonstration on Tuesday involving tens of thousands of Han Chinese, many carrying hand weapons.

"Some of them planned revenge, some took to the streets to show that the Han people cannot be bullied easily, and some others brought clubs just for self-defense," he said.

"Luckily, the demonstrators were persuaded by the city's Communist Party secretary to disperse. I couldn't imagine what would have happened if a traffic curfew hadn't been imposed that night," he said.

"Yes, I heard that some Uygurs were beaten by Hans after Sunday's riot, but I really don't want to see that happen again, no matter who beats whom," he said.

In the eyes of residents, Urumqi is roughly divided into two parts by Renmin Road in the downtown area, with the Uygurs to the south and the Han to the north.

"The dividing line was formed naturally because of our different ways of living, languages, customs and habits," Yu said.

The riot in Urumqi has left a deep scar on the minds of ordinary people from both ethnic groups, although most believe unity is the most important thing, said 43-year-old Dilnar Abdulla, a renowned Uygur dancer.

"I'm heartbroken to see the two ethnic groups find fault with each other and attack each other," she said.

"We both belong to one big family, the Chinese nation. I hate to see my brothers and sisters live in antagonism. I wept for every innocent person, regardless of which ethnic group, who died or was injured," she said.

"Everybody of the Han ethnic group has been nice to me in my 43 years," she said.


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