Foreign teachers and students at Urumqi's universities were confined to their campus rooms and dormitories as violence swept the city earlier this week. On Tuesday a group of people attempted to enter the campus of Xinjiang Medical University but were repelled by students and security forces.
Roy and Olga Moroz, both English teachers at Xinjiang Medical University in Urumqi, were told by their foreign affairs officer on Monday to stay inside their campus apartment and lock the doors. With the Internet, text messages cut and telephone not working, the couple sat in their apartment watching television as news broadcasts painted an increasingly alarming picture of disturbances in the city.
Gil Moreau, a foreign teacher at Xinjiang Medical University in Urumqi was confined to his campus apartment for several days after riots broke out in the city. He said security was tight but there had been no trouble on the campus. [John Sexton, China.org.cn]
"We packed a small bag and got our passports ready in case we had to make a run for it," said Roy, a Zimbabwe national who has experienced conflict situations in Africa.
"We could hear crowds outside the campus, chanting slogans," said Olga. "We were given very little information. We were wondering…where can we go, where can we hide?"
"We saw a group of people on campus carrying clubs," said Roy, "but I think they were the good guys."
A group of recently graduated medical students from Pakistan told us they had been locked in their dormitory for several days.
Kash, one of the students told us that, a few days before, a group of Hans had tried to enter the campus, but had been kept outside the gates by students who had armed themselves with clubs. Another of the Pakistani student, Osama, told us that Han and Uygur students had patrolled the campus together before security forces arrived to secure the campus. "There was absolutely no trouble between the students," he said.
Gil Moreau, another foreign teacher, said he had also been confined to his apartment on campus for several days. He said the university authorities were not allowing students to leave campus individually and were planning to bus them in groups to the railway station and airport at the end of the semester. He said there had been no trouble on the campus.
When China.org.cn visited the university on Thursday, People's Armed Police were guarding the entrances to the campus. There were no signs of damage, or that any serious disturbances had taken place. Some retired teachers were playing croquet in a shady court. Everyone we spoke to agreed that there had been no casualties on campus.
Olga and Roy told us that teaching in Xinjiang had been their best experience in six years in China. "The students here are so sharp," said Olga. Next semester they will be teaching at another university in Xinjiang. "This sort of thing can happen anywhere," said Olga. "We are definitely staying for another year."