Saturday, 5 September 2009

City leader sacked over China protests and unrest continues!

As a China watcher; I’ve been somewhat slow to comment on the recent developments in the western city of Urumqi, where what’s being reported as racial tensions that have led to violent confrontations amongst different groups and the authorities, has now seen the sacking today of the Communist Party chief Li Zhi for allegedly trying to appease public anger.

This week violence has broken out in all its ‘ugliness’ following on from a series of stabbings with hypodermic needles that the government blames on Muslim separatists that torched off the protests, which left five dead, and further unnerved the city still uneasy from July rioting that killed 197, mostly members of China's Han majority attacked by Muslim Uighurs. So will this ball up into something else, remains to be seen. On Thursday and Friday thousands marched demanding the dismissal of Li and his boss’s for failing to provide adequate public safety.
According to Wikipedia, with an urban population of over 2.3 million people, Ürümqi, whose name means "beautiful pasture", is by far the largest city on China's vast Western interior. Since the 1990s Urumqi has become gradually developed economically and now serves as a regional transport node and commercial centre.

Ürümqi is a major industrial centre within Xinjiang. Ürümqi, together with Karamay and Bayin'gholin, account for 64.5% of the total industrial output of Xinjiang. Ürümqi is also the largest consumer centre in the region, recording ¥41.9 billion retail sales of consumer goods in 2008, an increase of 26% from 2007. The GDP per capita reached US$6,222 in 2008. According to statistics, Urumqi ranked 7th in 2008 by the disposable income for urban residents among cities in Western China. Ürümqi has been a central developmental target for the China Western Development project that the Central Government is pursuing.
The July 2009 riots broke out on 5 on the first day it involved at least 1,000 Uyghurs in what began as a protest, but after confrontations with police escalated into attacks on Hans.Two days later, on 7 July, hundreds of Han people clashed with both police and Uyghurs On 8 July, Chinese President Hu Jintao cut short his attendance of the 35th G8 summit and returned to China due to the situation in Xinjiang.
The violence was part of ongoing ethnic tensions between the Han—the largest ethnic group in China—and the Uyghurs—a Turkic, and predominantly Muslim, minority ethnic group in China. The specific riots were sparked by Uyghur dissatisfaction with the Chinese central government's handling of the deaths of two Uyghur workers, as part of an ethnic brawl ten days earlier in Guangdong province Officials said at least 197 people are dead, with 1,721 others injured and many motor vehicles and buildings destroyed. Police attempted to quell the rioters with tear gas, water hoses, armoured vehicles, and roadblocks, while the government responded by strictly enforcing curfew in most urban areas Authorities shut down Internet services and restricted cell phone services in Ürümqi for the night.

The cause of the riots is disputed. While the protests that preceded the riots were ostensibly a response to the death of two Uyghur workers in Guangdong, the Chinese central government claimed that the riots themselves had been planned from abroad by the World Uyghur Congress (WUC); Rebiya Kadeer, its president, denied the charges.
My own estimation is that these protests represent a worrying significance for the Chinese Ruling Class that we in the west should not underestimate. Looking Back; Tiananmen was China’s failed but nevertheless attempted perestroika and velvet revolution all rolled into one. Not only did the protests jactitate Beijing for the whole of six weeks back in 1989; it lit the fuse of a Chinese cracker that led to 181 separate demonstrations in cities and towns throughout China, including all of the provincial capitals like Urumqi. It would be foolish to forget that students from 319 Chinese universities were represented in Tiananmen Square, and that the leadership of Communist Party was divided over how to respond or that the army had 150 officers who declared that they would not fire on demonstrators after martial law had been declared and at least a third of the Central Committee wanted to reach a compromise with the protesters, but instead the world witnessed a furious and tempestuous crack down on dissent.

The Communist Party of China knows one thing for certain, and that’s; they might not survive another Tiananmen Squire and that cracker may still go off. That’s why I’m a watcher!

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