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Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 19:22 UK

Chinese media bullish over riots

The riots in China's northern Xinjiang province, where ethnic Turkic Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese have clashed, remain headline news in China's media.

As Chinese state media focused on portraying the protesters as "terrorists" and trouble-makers, reports from ethnic Uighur sources in exile claimed the protesters were victims of police brutality.

Initial coverage of the riots by Chinese media focused on factual reporting of events. According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua's report on 5 July, the protests started at about 2000 (1200 GMT) on the day and, by 2330, many innocent civilians and one armed policeman had been killed.

At 2050 on 5 July, the state-run local Xinjiang TV interrupted its regular programming to air a nine-minute televised speech by Xinjiang Region Chairman Nur Bekri.

He said "the serious violent criminal incidents" that occurred in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, were "premeditated and organised ... and directed from outside". He stressed that the "solidarity" amongst all ethnic groups in the region was "as solid as a rock". He added that all groups would all spurn "the incitement and attacks of the three forces" - meaning terrorism, separatism and extremism.

This set the tone for subsequent reporting on the riots as other officials appeared on state TV to echo the official line.

The mayor of Urumqi, Jierla Yishamudin, described police action as "a battle with the three forces". He said on Xinjiang TV: "It is neither an ethnic issue nor a religious issue, but a battle of life and death to defend the unification of our motherland and to maintain the consolidation of all ethnic groups, a political battle that's fierce and of blood and fire."

Xinjiang Satellite TV quoted Wang Lequan, the secretary of the Xinjiang regional Communist Party committee as saying that the "three forces" had colluded with each other "to incite separatism, violence, and terrorism in the region". Mr Wang accused the leader of the separatist World Uyghur Congress, Rabiya Kadeer, of masterminding the violence.

'Remotely controlled'

The use of dramatic imagery on state media helped depict a situation in which apparently violent rioters were perceived to have picked on innocent victims.

I was surrounded by several rioters ... they kept bashing me... They are really despicable - our lives had been so good, why would they have done such things?
Taxi-driver, interviewed by Chinese TV

During its regular scheduled newscast on 6 July, CCTV-4, the international channel of China Central Television, carried an announcer-read report over video showing images of women being kicked on the ground. Another image showed a man covered in blood trying to get up.

The CCTV-4 report said Uighurs were to blame for the riots. "This was an incident remotely controlled, directed and incited from abroad, and executed inside the country," the commentator said over the images.

A selection of eyewitness interviews was used to add colour to some of the reports. A CCTV correspondent on location at the Urumqi Friendship Hospital said: "So many people had been rushed to hospital that some had to be treated in corridors."

The report showed a taxi driver saying: "I was surrounded by several rioters ... they kept bashing me... They are really despicable. Our lives had been so good, why would they have done such things?"

The reporter said a six-year-old girl was the youngest victim of the riots. "She was beaten when she was out shopping with her grandmother," the reporter said. An unnamed Urumqi resident said: "The rioters beat everyone they saw. They beat people and smashed cars. The girl was hit in the head by a brick. My mother fainted when she saw her."

Hong KongCable TV also carried video footage showing hundreds of Han Chinese with knives clashing with police after they blocked their protest march to the People's Square in the centre of the capital on 7 July. Police were seen spraying protesters with tear gas.

The TV also showed footage of mainly women protesters, who told foreign reporters that police had been arresting and beating male Uighurs since the outbreak of rioting in the city two days ago. The TV's correspondent said that this protest was staged to demand the release of the Uighur men.

Meanwhile, reporting from internet news sources has been beset with problems. Party officials admitted on 7 July that internet connections had been "cut in some areas of Urumqi in order to quench the riot quickly and prevent violence from spreading to other places".

Major Xinjiang websites had been reporting on the protest since 2330 GMT on 5 July but were found to be inaccessible as of 0600 GMT 6 July. They include official websites such as those of the Urumqi government, the Xinjiang government and the Xinjiang public security bureau.

'Deep sorrow'

Pro-Uighur media reports rejected the government claims that political activist, Rebiya Kadeer, had masterminded the protests. They also accused the police of brutality against peaceful protestors.

"The Chinese authorities should acknowledge that the peaceful protest was sparked by the unlawful mob beating and killing of Uighur workers at a Guangdong toy factory more than a week ago," said a statement by the World Uyghur Congress.

Similarly, a report on the German-based Uighur news agency website East Turkistan Information Centre said the only reason why Uighurs had been protesting in Urumqi was "the Chinese government's severe policy of repression and oppression".

The Uighur-language Uyghurlar.biz website carried a report expressing "deep sorrow for our Uighur brothers and sisters" and declared seven days of mourning for those who died.

A forum participant criticised the ethnic Uighur head of the regional government, Nur Bekri, for "taking the Chinese government's side in the unrest".

"You were a kind of sword in the hands of a butcher in killing Uighur girls and friends in Urumqi," the message to Nur Bekri said.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.



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