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China allows texting in Xinjiang six months after riots

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Burned out bus in Urumqi, China 6/7/09
The riots in July were the worst ethnic unrest in China in decades

Text messaging services have resumed in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, six months after deadly ethnic unrest that left nearly 200 people dead.

Services were being restored gradually, according to an official quoted by China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

People were stopped from sending text messages last July following riots and demonstrations in Xinjiang.

The authorities said this was done to maintain social order between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese people.

The BBC confirmed that services have restarted by texting a Xinjiang resident.

Internet access restored

An official with Xinjiang's regional government acknowledged the texting ban inconvenience people, but was necessary for security.

"The move proved to be effective in dealing with the riot and maintaining stability of the region," Xinhua quoted the unnamed official as saying.

The services was being being "gradually" restored beginning Sunday, he added.

The ban on sending text messages was introduced shortly after riots and protests in the regional capital, Urumqi, that left nearly 200 people dead, most of them Han Chinese.

Officials have said the unrest was orchestrated by Uighur separatists using the internet and text messaging.

The unrest revealed deep-seated antagonism between the mainly-Muslim Uighurs, the region's original inhabitants, and Han Chinese, most of whom have moved into Xinjiang over the last five decades.

Internet access, which was also cut off, is also being gradually resumed.

At the end of December the government began to restore access to some officially sanctioned sites, such as Xinhua, and allowed a number of other online services.



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