Uighurs hold protests in Western China

Muslim Uighurs have held anti-government protests in the far western region of Xinjiang, Chinese officials have acknowledged, blaming separatists inspired by the unrest in Tibet.Demonstrators took to the streets at the weekly bazaar in Hotan on March 23, but news of the incident has only just emerged. China maintains tight controls on information from the area.

The local government issued a statement accusing “a tiny number of people” of creating an incident after the US government-funded Radio Free Asia reported that hundreds of people had been detained for protesting in the city and a nearby county.

Turkic-speaking Uighurs account for 8 million of the 19 million-strong population in the vast region, which covers an area more than three times the size of France. But the government has implemented tight controls on Uighur culture, particularly since riots broke out in 1997.

Radio Free Asia said the protests appeared to be sparked by a wealthy trader’s death after two months in police custody.

Demonstrators had demanded the right for Uighur women to wear headscarves and the release of political prisoners.

An official with Hotan’s government information office, Fu Chao, told the Associated Press news agency that several dozen people were taken into custody but most were later released.



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