August 2, 2009 / 12:41 PM / in 10 years

China holds 319 in Xinjiang over July riots-Xinhua

* Chinese police detain 319 people

* Hotbed of ethnic tensions

BEIJING, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Chinese police detained 319 people suspected of involvement in deadly ethnic rioting in northwestern Xinjiang region last month, after a “wanted” list of suspects spurred tip-offs, the official Xinhua agency said on Sunday.

The Public Security Bureau of the regional capital Urumqi on July 30 made public a list of names and photographs of 15 Uighurs it was seeking for their suspected role in the violence.

“When the public security of Urumqi made an announcement... about those suspects who had been detained and those who were still on the ‘wanted’ list, it aroused the feelings of local residents and they had more initiative in exposing those suspects and provided a huge amount of clues,” the Xinhua report said.

The report, which cited local security officials, did not give an overall total for the number of people now being held in connection with the riots.

Officials have previously said over 1,500 had been detained. None has been publicly charged or released.

In Xinjiang’s worst ethnic violence in decades, Uighur rioters attacked majority Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5 after taking to the streets to protest against attacks on Uighur workers at a factory in south China in June which left two Uighurs dead. Hans in Urumqi sought revenge two days later.

Uighurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia, make up almost half of Xinjiang’s 20 million people.

The violence left 197 people dead, mostly Han Chinese, and wounded more than 1,600, according to official figures.

Xinjiang has long been a tightly controlled hotbed of ethnic tensions, fostered by an economic gap between many Uighurs and Han Chinese, government controls on religion and culture and an influx of Han migrants who now are the majority in Urumqi.

Beijing does not want to lose its grip on a vast territory that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, has abundant oil reserves and is China’s largest natural gas-producing region.

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