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Riot casts shadow over Urumqi residents
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By Li Jianmin, Ainura and Pan Ying

Sunday's riot is casting a gloomy pall of fear and uncertainty over the 3.5 million inhabitants of Urumqi.

"I don't want to bring a club with me everyday when I go outdoors," said a 47-year-old man of the Han ethnic group, surnamed Yu, as he recalled the demonstration on Tuesday involving tens of thousands of Han Chinese holding clubs or bricks – even young women.

"Some of them planned revenge, some took to the streets to show that the Han people cannot be bullied easily, and some others brought clubs just for self-defense," he said.

"Luckily, the demonstrators were persuaded by the city's Communist Party secretary to disperse. I couldn't imagine what would have happened if a curfew hadn't been imposed that night," he said uneasily.

"Yes, I heard that some Uygurs were beaten by Hans after Sunday's riot, but I really don't want to see that happen again, no matter who beats who," he added.

Few people in the capital city of China's far western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region were willing to give their full names while giving interviews, for fear of revenge attacks.

Long-time ethnic rift?

In the eyes of residents, Urumqi is roughly divided into two by the People's Road in the downtown area – Uygurs to the south, Han to the north.

"The dividing line was formed naturally because of our different ways of living, languages, customs and habits," Yu said.

"But that line hasn't prevented us from contact in the past decades. For instance, I have lots of intimate Uygur friends and my clients are mainly Uygurs," he said. Yu owns a company selling large washing equipment.

A shop owner surnamed Tuo, also a Han, told Xinhua Thursday that she thinks most people of both ethnic groups are easy-going and friendly.

"There are always a small portion of trouble-makers in each group, and they have intentionally or unintentionally damaged the image of their own group and undermined the ethnic unity through their improper deeds in the past decades," she said.

A young Han woman surnamed Ma, who was injured in the head during the riot and being treated at the Xinjiang Autonomous Regional People's Hospital. She told Xinhua Thursday that she didn't hate Uygurs.

"Actually, I was saved by two Uygurs that night. I believe the bad guys are very few," she said.

The riot in Urumqi has left a deep scar on the minds of ordinary people of both ethnic groups, although most believe ethnic unity is the most important thing, said 43-year-old Dilnar Abdulla, a renowned Uygur dancer.

"I'm heartbroken to see the two ethnic groups find fault with each other and attack each other," she said.

"We both belong to one big family, the Chinese nation. I hate to see my brothers and sisters live in antagonism. I wept for every innocent person, regardless of which ethnic group, who died or was injured," she said.

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