Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, is tense a day before the first anniversary of the outbreak of anti-Han violence by some Uighurs of the city on July 5 last year. The anti-Han violence had led to retaliatory attacks by some Hans against the Uighurs and to protest demonstration by large sections of the Hans against the local authorities for failing to protect them from alleged attacks by the Uighurs.
In their precautionary measures to prevent a repeat of last year's incidents, the Chinese have deployed a large number of extra police personnel all over the city. These extra forces have been brought from adjoining provinces. They have installed closed circuit TV cameras at all sensitive points in the city. They have closed the People's Square, where large violent mobs had gathered last year, to the public for a week under the pretext of having to carry out repairs.
The Xinhua news agency has quoted a spokesman of the municipal government of Urumqi as saying on July 1 that security cameras with special "riot-proof" protective shells have been installed in the city. Police would monitor the cameras, which have been installed on 3,400 buses, and at 200 bus stops, 4,440 streets and lanes, 270 schools and kindergartens, 100 shopping malls and supermarkets, and other places, he said. The cameras are part of a security reinforcement ahead of the anniversary.Urumqi police bureau chief Wang Mingshan said police had started drills to deal with emergencies, initiated campaigns to confiscate guns and explosives, and launched a crackdown on violent crime. The local government plans to spend about 2.9 billion yuan ($426 million) on public security this year, an increase of 87 per cent from last year.
According to independent sources, the Chinese authorities allowed the Friday prayers to be held in all the mosques of the city on July 2. The mosques were packed with worshippers. Police were posted outside all mosques to prevent any incident. They had erected huge banners outside the mosques reading "Uphold The Unity of the Motherland."
The police are concerned as much over the dangers of sections of the Hans indulging in violence against the Uighurs as over Uighur violence against the Hans. They have been discouraging people from moving around in the city without imposing a curfew. Police vans have been advising people in both Han and Uighur areas not to move around unless absolutely necessary to purchase food articles and medicines.
The Chinese authorities are also reported to have stepped up physical security in the Shanghai Expo and for all Chinese diplomatic and consular missions in Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics. Pakistani sources say that Pakistan's Ministry of the Interior has been requested by the Chinese Embassy to increase their surveillance on the members of the Uighur community living in different parts of Pakistan. These sources also say that the Chinese have taken precautions to prevent attacks on Chinese nationals and property by the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
In the meanwhile, about 200 members of Pakistan's Special Services Group (SSG)-- many of them US trained and US equipped-- are reported to have arrived in China with their equipment of US origin for participating in the third joint counter-terrorism exercise between the armies of the two countries.
The Agence France Press (AFP) has quoted Mr Mark Toner, a spokesman of the US State Department, as stating as follows: "We continue to urge China to handle all detentions and judicial processes relating to last year's violence in Urumqi in a transparent manner. We have urged China to ensure that the legal rights of all Chinese citizens are respected in accordance with international standards of due process. The United States has discussed its concerns repeatedly with China via its embassy in Beijing. "
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinert Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.