Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 10:08 UK

Angry Uighurs defy Chinese police

Uighur women and children in Urumqi, 07/07
Armed police are out in force in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital

New protests have flared in the western Chinese city of Urumqi, two days after more than 150 people died in clashes involving ethnic groups and police.

About 200 ethnic Uighurs, who are a Muslim minority, faced off against police to protest over the arrest of 1,434 people over Sunday's unrest.

Groups of ethnic Han Chinese have now armed themselves with batons and stones and have gathered in Urumqi.

Beijing and the Uighurs blame each other for the outbreak of violence.

Witnesses to Sunday's protests said Uighur protesters attacked vehicles before turning on local Han Chinese.

BBC map

The unrest was apparently sparked by a brawl between Uighurs and Han Chinese several weeks earlier in a toy factory thousands of miles away in Guandong province.

Officials say 156 people - mostly ethnic Han Chinese - died in Sunday's violence and more than 1,000 were injured. Uighur groups say many more have died, claiming 90% of the dead were Uighurs.

State-run news agency Xinhua also reported a protest in another part of Xinjiang province on Monday, with police breaking up a 200-strong demonstration near a mosque in the city of Kashgar.

'Extraordinary defiance'

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville, on the streets of Urumqi, says at least 200 people - mostly elderly women or women with children - took to the streets, complaining that their relatives had been arbitrarily arrested.

Quentin Somerville
Quentin Sommerville, Urumqi

Hundreds of people, mainly women, have come into the streets.

They are screaming and shouting, "Give us our freedom, give us back our men."

The police are running at a trot with batons and shields. The Uighur men and women are standing their ground. Some are beginning to disperse.

This is a city where the Chinese authorities say they have regained control, but the scenes going on around me tell an entirely different story.

Foreign journalists witnessed the protest during a tour led by government officials showing them parts of the city where shops and homes had been destroyed in Sunday's violence.

Our correspondent says it was an extraordinary act of defiance by the protesters.

He says riot police - armed with rifles and tear gas - charged the women and surrounded them. But they sat on the ground in defiance of orders from officers to disperse.

He says the protesters finally began leaving as the journalists were ushered away from the area.

But policemen were waiting in the side streets, he said, and it was unclear what had happened to the women.

Later, in what seems to be a counter-protest, Han Chinese people gathered in various parts of the city.

Reports say riot police dispersed them with tear gas.

Buses 'torn apart'

The mass arrests have been going on since Sunday's clashes.

Reports are surfacing that police have been going from house to house, rounding up young men for questioning.

Xinjiang population is 45% Uighur, 40% Han Chinese
Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan
Since then, large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
Sporadic violence since 1991
Attack on 4 Aug 2008 near Kashgar kills 16 Chinese policemen

The Chinese authorities say they have arrested the "ringleaders" of the protests, but that they are still seeking others.

Witnesses said Uighur protesters tore apart buses and cars with their bare hands on Sunday, and then turned on the local Han Chinese in what appears to have been an ethnic attack.

Some Chinese were dragged from the windows of buses while others were beaten in their homes.

Many of the injured - Uighur, Han and some from another ethnic group, the Hui - are still being treated in Urumqi's hospitals.

Demonstrators said they had been demanding justice for two Uighurs killed last month in a fight with ethnic Han Chinese at a factory in south-eastern China.

Officials say 15 people have now been arrested over the Guandong incident.

There has been widespread international concern at the clashes, which some analysts say are the most serious in China since Tiananmen Square in 1989.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon led the calls for restraint, a sentiment echoed by Britain and the US.

Map or Urumqi

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