Uygur separatist leaders based in the US promptly condemned the Chinese authorities for their "brutal crackdown". But they did not even censure the rioters for killing so many people.
Reuters news agency and The Guardian newspaper cited hospital figures, based on the admission of the injured, to say 80 percent of the victims were Han Chinese and only 13 percent, Uygurs. A majority of the dead were Han Chinese, too.
As is their wont, the Western media did not question the Uygur leaders for launching the brutal attacks, or how the ethnic killings and maiming of ordinary people could be justified.
On Monday, Xinjiang governor Nur Bekin said the riots had been planned by Uygur exiles, who are members of the US-based World Uygur Congress (WUC). Tracking of phone calls showed WUC leader Rebiya Kadeer told supporters in Xinjiang on Sunday to stage "something big", Bekin said. Witnesses later reported knife-wielding Uygurs stabbing Han Chinese, indicating that the attacks had been pre-planned.
Uygur separatists seeking independence enjoy a ready-made constituency in the West whenever Chinese authorities clamp down on them.
The Tibetan experience last year showed Western human rights groups, the media and even the public sympathize with those who start the trouble when official action is taken against them.
The Urumqi riots came just days after the Dalai Lama made waves abroad again, and coincided with the last day of China's first "World Think Tank Summit" with foreign policymakers in Beijing, and three days before China was to attend the G8 "extended" summit in Italy.
In 1990 and 1997, violent anti-Han Chinese riots in Xinjiang left many innocent people dead, but the mayhem this time was worse.
(China Daily July 9, 2009)