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Urumqi sets curfew after new unrest

A TRAFFIC curfew was imposed after unrest hit the Xinjiang capital again yesterday afternoon, nearly two days after a riot that killed 156 people and injured 1,080.

The city of Urumqi decided to adopt "comprehensive traffic controls" last night to avoid further violence, Wang Lequan, secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Committee of the Communist Party of China, said in a televised speech yesterday.

The order came after several thousand protesters, mostly Han Chinese, marched toward Erdaoqiao, an area in downtown Urumqi that's inhabited mainly by the Uygur ethnic group.

The protesters, holding clubs, knives, axes, hammers and other tools that could be used as weapons, shouted that they were "protecting our home, protecting our family members."

They were stopped by units of the Armed Police before reaching the destination. No clashes were reported at the scene, though there was scattered trouble in other areas.

Li Zhi, the Communist Party leader in the northwest China city, rushed to the scene at about 4:30pm to calm the protesters.

"Uygur people and Han Chinese are brothers and sisters; we are a family," said the official while repeatedly asking the crowd to disperse.

Many of the protesters began to persuade others to refrain from extreme action. But others asked for the punishment of Sunday's rioters and called for stronger government action.

At one point, a Uygur woman hugging a child walked through the protesters with a police escort.

"Let them go. Uygur mobs killed our women and children, but we will not kill theirs," some protesters said.

The crowds sang the National Anthem and gradually dispersed in about 40 minutes, though several hundred remained at the scene.

Many protesters gathered at the Urumqi South Railway Station, Changjiang Road, Yangzijiang Road and other places. People ran away in panic and roadside shops were shut down.

Residents of some community compounds brandished bats for self-defense.

"We will not hide anymore. We will fight back if they (the rioters) come," said one man.

Crowds of people rushed to the municipal people's hospital to take shelter. One adult who was coughing blood and a young man whose head was covered in blood were rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment.

The regional hospital of traditional Chinese medicine received about three Han Chinese with fresh wounds yesterday afternoon, the president of the hospital said, though it wasn't clear how the people were injured.

Someone drove a car into a police van during a standoff with police at about 1:30pm, authorities said.

The traffic curfew was scheduled to run from 9pm yesterday to 8am today.

In his speech, Party Secretary Wang called for avoiding confrontation between ethnic groups.

"Some Han people took to the streets in Urumqi today, disrupting social order," he said. "It is completely unnecessary."

"Our targets should be the hostile forces, both at home and abroad, and criminals, rather than our own brothers and sisters of different ethnic backgrounds," he said.


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