Nearly a week after the deadly riot bruised Urumqi and sent residents fleeing its major streets, it was quite a relief to see people gradually return to normal life.
The first weekend after last Sunday's riot seemed peaceful in Urumqi, with residents strolling in downtown parks with their families, banks reopening after a five-day business suspension and business owners looking to the future.
Some people began holding funeral rites for the dead, while soldiers in riot gear stood guard nearby.
A group of photos filed by my colleagues in Urumqi Saturday showed snow white pigeons, the symbol for peace, struttiug in a square near the city's major bazaar.
In one of them, a woman was crouching, reaching out an arm to stroke one of the birds while a baby rested in her other arm. From the looks in their eyes I read yearning for life as it is.
Canadian teacher Josph Kaber said he sensed tension when some Uygur-run stores on the campus of Xinjiang University were closed after Sunday's riot. "The very next day, young couples were seen strolling by the artificial lake again, and I knew things were getting better."
Shock and terror
But for those bereft of their beloved ones in last Sunday's riot, the worst to have hit the Uygur autonomous region in six decades, the trauma would probably take a lifetime to heal.
Chinese people customarily think the seventh day after death is an important occasion for families and friends to mourn the deceased.
Now on the eve of this special mourning day, as shock and terror at the bloodshed give way to anguished quest for the cause of the tragedy, we all feel their grief and are ourselves eager to find out the black hand behind the terror.
It is not surprising that Rebiya Kadeer is in the spotlight. If not for what happened in Urumqi last Sunday, most Chinese people would know little of the former businesswoman who built a fortune in Urumqi and became a rising star in the country's political arena, got jailed for stealing national secrets, and fled to the United States in 2005.
People continued to bombard Kadeer Saturday: Some said the World Uygur Congress leader was seeking to become a Dalai Lama much needed by "East Turkestan," while others mocked her photo with the exiled Tibetan monk.
In an interview with Xinhua Saturday, former chairman of Xinjiang's regional government Ismail Amat said the woman was "scum" of the Uygur community and was not entitled to represent the Uygur people.
For most people, the Uygur woman's profile was blurry, stuck in the dilemma of her rags-to-riches legend and her separatist, sometimes terrorist, attempts.
Kadeer took advantage of China's reform and opening up policy to build her fortune, but ended up building connections with East Turkestan terrorists and selling intelligence information to foreigners.
When the rioters in Urumqi's streets, in an outrageous demonstration of violence, slaughtered innocent civilians and left thousands fleeing or moaning in agony, the "spiritual mother of the Uygur people" touted by East Turkestan terrorists insisted they were "peaceful protesters."
To illustrate her point, Kadeer ironically showed a photo in a Tuesday interview with Al Jazeera, which later proved to have been cropped from a Chinese news Website on an unrelated June 26 protest in Shishou in central Hubei Province.
Until Friday, she was still spreading rumors in an interview with AP, most of which centered on what she called "Chinese brutality".
As I read this I recalled vividly a text message a friend sent me via cell phone from Urumqi shortly after the riot.
"I feel like crying," wrote the man of 26, "to see the mobs beating up and killing the innocent, and setting fire to vehicles and stores ... I hate myself for not being able to do anything to stop them. Even a police officer is crying."
(The author is a writer at Xinhua news agency.)
(Shanghai Daily July 14, 2009)