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Catholics among those affected by Xinjiang riots


July 08 2009

Catholics in northwestern China were among those affected in the recent rioting in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and are praying for peace.

Ethnic Han Chinese Catholics have narrowly escaped mob violence in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwestern China.

John, a cathedral parishioner in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, reported the church was not damaged, but he noted that a few laypeople were affected in the violence.

Catholics are praying for peace and for the victims, he said.

The layman also said very few Catholics came to church after the regional government imposed a curfew on July 7 and strictly monitored vehicle movement.

Catholics in the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang region number about 5,000 and are mainly Han Chinese. Bishop Paul Xie Tingzhe of Urumqi heads the community.

Many Catholics in Urumqi came from Gansu and Shaanxi provinces in northwestern China or parts of northeastern China and moved here to do business, John said.

Rioting started on July 5 after a peaceful demonstration by Uighur, members of the Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim group native to Xinjiang, protesting the deaths of Uighur workers killed in a brawl in southern China last month. The situation spiraled out of control as mainly Uighur groups beat people and set fire to vehicles and shops belonging to Han Chinese.

According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the violence left 156 people dead and more than 1,000 injured, the largest number of casualties in any single incident of its kind in six decades.

Police arrested 1,434 people in connection with killing, beating, smashing, looting and burning during the riots, Xinhua reported on July 7.

Min, a Catholic layman from Hebei province who runs a wire and cable business in Urumqi, was attacked while driving his car through a protest area on his way to church on the morning of July 5.

He told Catholic-run Hebei Faith Press that a mob threw bricks and stones at his car, breaking the front windshield and other windows, and damaging the back seats. He was able to drive away, avoiding injury, Min told the Church-run newspaper based in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province.

The paper also reported that Xiao Han, a 22-year-old Catholic, was eating noodles at a restaurant on July 5 when about 20 people surrounded him and shouted slogans.

The air-ticketing clerk was quoted as saying he managed to escape from the danger and chaos but felt frightened even a couple of days later.
Some mainland Church sources outside Xinjiang told UCA News the same day that government officials have warned Catholics to be vigilant in guarding church premises even amid stepped-up public security measures.