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Chinese Police Clash with Ethnic Uighurs


China has been hit by a spate of riots in recent weeks due to ethnic, labor, and land disputes. The latest occurred in the major commercial city of Guangzhou, where reports say dozens of ethnic Uighurs clashed with police last weekend.

The fighting in China's southern business city of Guangzhou started over a minor incident in which police tried to get a Uighur street vendor to move his illegal mutton stand. The man reportedly left and returned with about 70 fellow Uighurs armed with knives and steel pipes - leading to a clash.

Witnesses say several people were injured.

The incident happened in a Uighur neighborhood with a reputation for drug smuggling.

There have been simmering tensions between the government - which is dominated by Han Chinese who make up 92 percent of China's population - and members of the Muslim Uighur minority.

Incidents like the one in Guangzhou are becoming increasingly common. China has more than 50 ethnic minorities, who complain they are not benefiting from the country's explosive economic growth.

Professor Gardner Bovingdon is an expert on Uighur culture and politics at Indiana University in the United States.

"In the view of many Uighurs, it's much harder for Uighurs to get jobs and Uighurs as a group are much poorer than their Han counterparts."

In its attempts to discourage separatism in the Uighurs' homeland of Xinjiang, the government has made some concessions that include education subsidies and financial assistance. Beijing also allows Uighur parents to have more than one child - an exception to the one-child policy that is imposed on Chinese urban dwellers.

However, Uighurs complain the Han-dominated government is trying to stamp out their culture and religion by eliminating the Uighur language at universities and imposing restrictions on the practice of Islam.

Uighur activists and human rights groups also accuse Beijing authorities of using the global war on terrorism as an excuse to crack down on Uighur separatists whom the government has labeled as terrorists.

Earlier this month, police faced deadly violence in Henan Province, where at least seven people were killed and more than 40 injured in a dispute between Han Chinese and minority Hui Muslims.

Chinese authorities have also been battling riots and unrest in Sichuan Province, where thousands of people are angry at being forced to relocate to make way for dam projects to generate power. There have also been labor strikes and clashes - protesting corruption, unpaid wages and lack of benefits.

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