China warns of reprisals in Algeria after unrest

URUMQI, China – China's embassy in Algeria has warned Chinese companies and workers to be on guard for attacks after an Islamist Web site called for retaliation for Beijing's response to unrest in its predominantly Muslim western province.

A notice posted late Tuesday on the embassy's Web site follows a torrent of ethnic clashes this month that left at least 184 dead in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi. Riots by Muslim Uighurs and subsequent fighting between Uighurs and members of the Han Chinese majority were the worst ethnic violence China has seen in decades.

"In light of the riots, the Chinese Embassy in Algeria reminds Chinese-funded companies and personnel to enhance security awareness and strengthen security measures," the notice said.

In recent days, postings on an Islamist Web site in the Arab world suggested killing Han Chinese in the Middle East, noting there are large communities of ethnic Chinese laborers working in Algeria and Saudi Arabia.

Urumqi was calm Wednesday, although security was tight, especially near Uighur areas after Monday's fatal shooting of two Uighurs by police. The city government says the two — and third man, who was wounded — attacked police trying to break up a fight.

China has been worried that the violence may overshadow its good relations with Muslim countries. Turkey has already called the unrest "a kind of genocide." The Turkic-speaking Uighurs share cultural and ethnic bonds with Turks.

On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang appealed for understanding of China's handling of the unrest and rejected assertions it would hurt Beijing's ties with Muslim countries.

"If they have a clear idea about the true nature of the incident, they would understand China's policies concerning religion and religious issues and understand the measures we have taken," he told a regular news conference.

An editorial in the China Daily, the official English-language newspaper, said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "would be well advised to take back his remarks," calling them a "groundless and irresponsible accusation."

Qin said the July 5 riots "were aimed at sabotaging China and sabotaging ethnic unity. It was orchestrated by the three forces terrorism, religious extremism and separatism in and outside of China."

The July 5 riots began when Uighurs who were protesting last month's deaths of fellow factory workers in a brawl in southern China clashed with police. Crowds scattered throughout the city, attacking ethnic Han Chinese and burning cars.

Uighurs, who number 9 million in Xinjiang, have complained about an influx of Han Chinese and government restrictions on their Muslim religion. They accuse the Han of discrimination and the Communist Party of trying to erase their language and culture.

Han Chinese, many of whom were encouraged to emigrate to Xinjiang by the government, believe the Uighurs should be grateful for the region's rapid economic development, which has brought schools, airports and oil wells to the sprawling, rugged region the size of Texas.

China blames Rebiya Kadeer, a prominent exiled Uighur activist, for inciting the unrest. It has not provided evidence to back its claim, and Kadeer, who lives in Washington, D.C., has denied the charges. She blames government policies for exacerbating long-standing tensions between the dominant Han Chinese and the minority Muslim Uighur community.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes