Trouble resurfaced in the restive far-western region of Xinjiang Monday when Chinese police shot at civilians killing scores of people in the Uyghur populated city of Hotan.
Chinese state media Xinhua had on Monday reported that “thugs” broke into the police station shortly after 12 noon, assaulting the police, taking hostages and setting fire to the station. “Six hostages were successfully rescued,” it said, citing the ministry of public security.
However, the Chinese government version of the events were strongly contested.
According to the Germany based World Uighur Congress (WUC), which wants more independence and greater rights for the largely Muslim, ethnic group in Xinjiang said that the shooting took place not at a police station, but in Hotan’s main bazaar.
In a press statement released today WUC said that the shooting occurred when more than 100 local Uyghurs peacefully gathered to protest a police crackdown imposed on the city and demanded to know the whereabouts of relatives who had gone missing into police custody.
“Police opened fire on the demonstrators, killing at least 20 people. Based on information received from one hospital in Hotan, another 12 people were injured seriously, among them four women and an 11-year-old girl named Hanzohre”, the statement said.
Expressing fears that the actual number of casualties could be much higher, the WUC said that more than 70 people were arrested.
“Since the roads to Hotan city have been blocked by Chinese security forces and incoming and out-coming people are controlled and searched and martial law was imposed by the authorities in Hotan, it is difficult to obtain information on the incident”, WUC said.
The confrontation in Hotan – near one of China’s most important energy-producing areas – comes two years after deadly clashes between ethnic Uyghurs and Chinese security forces left at least 197 people dead.
The Washington based Uyghur America Association in a separate release condemned the acts of violence and urged “Chinese officials to allow international media and observers to freely and independently investigate the incident in Hotan.