China says ethnic policies not to blame for Urumqi riots | world | Hindustan Times
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China says ethnic policies not to blame for Urumqi riots

world Updated: Jul 21, 2009 12:16 IST

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China's policies toward its ethnic minorities were not to blame for deadly riots this month by Muslim Uighurs and would not be adjusted as a result of the violence, the government said on Tuesday.

"The violent crimes in (the Xinjiang capital) Urumqi have nothing to do with China's ethnic policies," Wu Shimin, vice minister of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, told a press briefing.

The government has so far blamed "separatists" for July 5 riots in the western Xinjiang region, while not admitting any problems in its handling of the Uighurs and other restive minorities.

Wu said the country's policies toward its 56 ethnic groups are continually tweaked as needed but he said there were no plans for specific changes in the wake of the riots.

Members of the Uighur minority, a mainly Muslim, central Asian people, went on a rampage on July 5, assaulting members of China's dominant Han ethnic group. The attacks left 197 people dead, the head of Xinjiang's government has said.

Uighurs say police sparked the rioting by shooting peaceful protesters who were demanding an investigation into a recent factory brawl in southern China that left at least two Uighur migrant workers dead.

Wu repeated the government's position that the unrest was triggered by separatist terrorist forces, while offering no proof, and rejected many of the complaints Uighurs typically have about China's policies.

China has a range of policies meant to provide extra economic, educational and other benefits to its ethnic minorities, and has set up a number of purportedly self-ruled ethnic "autonomous" regions or counties.

However some groups, particularly Uighurs and Tibetans, have long complained of political and economic domination by an influx of Han to their regions that they say is eroding their cultures, religions and languages.

Liu Wanqing, another top official with the ethnic affairs commission, admitted there was some tension between ethnic groups, but insisted ethnic relations overall were in "good shape."

"Interaction between ethnic groups is getting more frequent... and they may run into disputes over economic interests," Liu said.