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Han Chinese retaliate as violence escalates in Xinjiang

Daniel MacArthur-Seal
7 July 2009

Han Chinese vigilantes embarked on a major offensive against Uighur businesses and residences after inter-ethnic violence and the police response claimed 157 lives over the weekend in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province.

The toD verdict: Ethnic clashes in Urumqi quickly took on an international dimension as both Uighur and Han diasporas took to city streets across the world. Approximately ten million Uighurs live outside of China. Munich, the headquarters of the World Uighur Congress was the site of two petrol bomb attacks on the Chinese consulate, while in The Hague, Dutch police arrested 142 demonstrators outside the Chinese embassy. Rebiya Kadeer, the leader of the Congress, was blamed by Chinese officials for stirring unrest, but denied the claims and insisted Chinese police tactics were to blame for transforming peaceful protests into rioting.

Both sides have also struggled for the sympathy of the international media, making increasing use of new tactics to disseminate their experiences and interpretations of events on the ground. The Chinese state, rather than depending on excluding journalists from the crisis zone as was customary during violent unrest in Tibet in March 2008, has instead chosen more sophisticated forms of manipulation; setting up news rooms, offering hotel accommodation to journalists at chosen locations and shaping reporter's itineraries. Images of injured Han civilians have filled Chinese news outlets in an attempt to portray police actions as defending the innocent, thus discrediting Uighur grievances. In accordance with this aim, police and civilian officials desperately attempted to restore order today, lest Han violence undermine the narrative of Chinese victimhood. Keep up to date with the latest developments and sharpest perspectives in a world of strife and struggle. Sign up to receive toD's daily security briefings via email by clicking here

For Uighur activists and independent journalists, Twitter and online blogs have become important forums for relating stories of police suppression, as they have during recent protests in Iran. But while internet sources have served as a platform for reporting stifled by government restrictions, lingering uncertainty over their reliability is likely to leave foreign observers unable to draw conclusions or make clear judgements.

Ten foreign troops killed in Taliban strikes across Afghanistan

Taliban attacks and a helicopter crash made Monday one of the bloodiest days for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 American-led invasion. Four American military instructors were killed in a rare attack in the relatively peaceful north of the country. More familiarly, a roadside bomb killed two marines in southern Afghanistan and a third died in a firefight with militants in the east of the country. Two British and one Canadian serviceman died in a helicopter crash in Zabul province. The crash was not provoked by enemy fire, a British army spokesman insisted. 

US and Russia agree nuclear stockpile reduction

Barack Obama gave a landmark speech in Moscow yesterday in which he again promised to "reset" American relations with Russia. The talk follows the joint announcement by Obama and Russian President Medvedev of their intention to reduce both nation's nuclear stockpiles to between 1,500 and 1,670 warheads and 500 to 1,100 strategic launch vehicles. The US and Russia will also recommit to a non-proliferation cooperation deal abrogated by George Bush in response to hostilities in Georgia in 2008.

South Korea and US in ballistic missile negotiations

Senior sources at the US military mission in Seoul have indicated that the US will revise current agreements with South Korea limiting the range of their missile armaments to 186 miles. South Korea's missile capabilities have been limited since 1976 in the hope of averting a spiralling regional arms race but North Korea's expanding arsenal has led to growing demands in the South to keep pace with their northern neighbour.

Israel will bypass US on Iran strike

Israeli sources disclosed to Washington Times, a right-wing US daily, that the Netanyahu administration views seeking US permission for a strike on Iran as a pointless endeavour since the White House would not approve an attack. Israeli jets would have to coss Iraqi airspace to launch any attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and so the US would have to at least permit Israeli transit. On Sunday Vice President Joe Biden defended Israel's "sovereign right" to attack Iran if it viewed the country as a threat, saying it was "not our choice" whether Israel would attack. The Washington Times' Israeli sources however believe Israel would refrain from asking US permission since they expect rejection.   

Wave of bomb attacks hits southern Philippines

Six people were killed and forty wounded in twin blasts on Jolo Island, the latest in a string of bomb attacks to hit the southern Philippines during the ongoing Abu Sayyaaf insurgency in the region. A third bomb was found and defused by police. The Abu Sayyaf are suspected of several recent attacks and kidnappings, including that of an Italian captured in January and still held by the group. A linked Islamist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, are blamed for a recent attack on a cathedral in Cotabato city in which six people were killed and fifty wounded.

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