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Riots in China’s Xinjiang Province Leave at Least 12 Dead

Feb. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Riots in China’s western Xinjiang province left at least 12 people dead, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said, the latest burst of unrest in a region beset by tension between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese.

“Violent mobs” in the city of Kashgar hacked at least 10 people to death yesterday and police shot and killed at least two people, Xinhua said, citing witnesses it did not identify. Xinhua didn’t run a report in Chinese about the riots.

The unrest may cast a shadow over government meetings starting this weekend that will see delegates from across China gather in Beijing for annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Years of policies encouraging migration of Han Chinese to areas such as Xinjiang have stoked ethnic tensions.

Asked to confirm the riots, an official who answered the phone at the Kashgar government press office and declined to give his name called reports of unrest “baseless assertions.” Told that one report was on Xinhua, the official hung up the phone. The Kashgar government website, which didn’t mention the riots, had a pop-up window with a slogan that read, “Achieve the leapfrog development and long-term stability in Kashgar.”

‘High Alert’

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Xinjiang is developing fast and China will be on “high alert for the people behind this.”

China opposes “terrorists and separatists spoiling peaceful development,” Hong said.

Xinjiang was the scene of clashes in 2009 between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and the Han ethnic group that left almost 200 people dead in the provincial capital of Urumqi. Separate riots in July and August killed 22 people, Xinhua reported at the time.

Chinese authorities said the attacks last year were carried out by “religious extremists” whose ringleaders had been trained at camps in Pakistan run by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

In a trip to Singapore earlier this month, Kashgar’s executive vice mayor, Deng Huijiang, said investors can “rest assured” about security issues. He said authorities in the city have beefed up security and that the 2011 attacks were a “one-off” incident.

Muslim Uighurs share ethnic ties with the Turkic peoples of central Asia, while Kashgar is China’s westernmost city borders with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Uighurs complain of discrimination by the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group, and of unfair allocation of the region’s resources.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Nicholas Wadhams in Beijing at nwadhams@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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