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Minds turn to future in riot-weary city
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Some Uygurs in this city continued with protests yesterday morning, while others were saying they wanted nothing more than for life to return to normal.

At least 200 Uygur ethnic minority residents took to the downtown streets of the regional capital at around 10:30 am Tuesday for a protest that coincided with a visit from international reporters to Dawan Nanlu Road, one of the areas hit hardest by Sunday's riot.

Protesters, mostly women at first, cried and shouted slogans as nine busloads of journalists arrived to see the location where rioters had set on fire rows of cars at the weekend.

A burned-out shell was all that remained of a two-floor store there and neighboring businesses that were damaged Sunday, had broken windows and smashed pottery strewn on the ground.

"They want to take advantage of the reporters' visit; they know the tricks," said a local police officer, who refused to give his name.

Police with shields and helmets gathered on the street and the number of protesters swelled with the arrival of more locals, including young men, prompting the deployment of even more riot police who were rushed to the scene by car.

A crying woman claimed that police had taken her husband from their home on Monday night. She insisted he had done nothing wrong.

A bystander watching the protest yesterday said: "What about the 156 people who died in the unrest and more than 1,000 who were wounded? Who was more wronged?"

Aimaiti, 24, whose Karwan Car Deco Store was relatively undamaged, despite being only a few meters from a torched car dealership, appealed for calm.

"My business was almost ruined," he said. "I wouldn't like to see any more chaos."

Aimaiti, who opened his store four years ago, told China Daily that before the riot, he could earn up to 3,000 yuan ($440) a day. Now, business was at a standstill.

He said during Sunday's unrest, a large group of ethnic Uygurs smashed cameras in front of his shop at around 8 pm. He said they were about to loot his building when he and 10 colleagues went out to reason with them.

"I asked them, why did they smash it (the video monitor)? What wrong had we done? They somehow left and moved on."

He said he was scared and has since elected to sit outside his business with four workers to keep watch on the building.

"My friends, the Han and Uygur as well, have made a lot of phone calls to console me. Some are suppliers in Guangzhou, asking me to be cautious of safety," he said. "I told them I was fine, and that I anticipate things will go back to normal in one or two weeks, so they can go on shipping car decoration materials to me."

By 11 am yesterday, Uygur demonstrators along the street were using loudspeakers while others were yelling at police standing about 30 m away.

A young Uygur woman among the protesters fell to the ground - possibly because of hot weather - and three Uygur men and two police officers rushed her to a car to ferry her to hospital, an eyewitness said.

Yao Chengqing, 35, who lives close to the car dealerships, said he could not understand why rioters had attacked him on Sunday.

"I was about to go to bed when they broke into my shop, and without a word, they beat me with iron bars, hurting my head and breaking my arm," said Yao, who came from Anhui province.

He said he had friends from both the Han and Uygur communities.

"I couldn't figure out why this happened to me," he said, pointing to the gauze that was attached to his scalp.

For Aniwar Maimaiti, a Uygur from Aksu in southern Xinjiang, life has become difficult since July 5.

The 33-year-old salesman said he was suffering from mental trauma. He said with shops and restaurants closed, it was hard to even do simple things, such as find food.

"I don't think violence is a good way for solutions," he said. "A better way is to increase the communication of concerns and problems to the government."

Behind him in a Muslim restaurant near the Hoi Tak Hotel on Dongfeng Road in downtown Urumqi, a notice daubed on the wall read: "Do not engage in fighting or scuffling, or it may bring you 10 days in detention, 500 yuan in fines, 1,000 yuan for medicare, and cause worries for your family, your own bleeding, plus adding to personal enemies and increasing your regrets."

On Monday evening, a day after Sunday's riot, traffic along the normally thronging highway from Urumqi airport to the downtown had slowed to a trickle.

A driver, surnamed Zhou, said a journey that usually took him more than an hour passed by in just 30 minutes on Monday evening.

Anti-riot police armed with tear-gas, rifles, batons and shields continued to patrol the streets into the evening, with armored vehicles rolling by.

However, not everyone was tense in the city. A traveler from Taiwan, surnamed Zhou, said she remained relaxed during her holiday in Xinjiang.

Zhou, who arrived with a group of tourists on Monday night, left the Hoi Tak Hotel early yesterday morning.

"There are people who protect us, and we know to keep away from dangerous zones; so we can continue our trip worry-free," the Kaosiung resident said.

Ng Yu-chiu, a tourist guide with a Hong Kong travel agency, said his group had altered its itinerary. Instead of going to bazaars to shop, they visited Hongshan Park in Urumqi.

Yuan Xiaohong, another tour guide with the group, said tourists had been warned not to venture out at night. She said no one showed signs of concern during their four-day visit in Xinjiang.

(China Daily July 8, 2009)

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