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Activist Says Thousands Missing in China's Uighur Province


The exiled leader of China's Uighur minority group has sharply criticized the Chinese government and called for an independent investigation into recent unrest in Xinjiang. Rebiya Kadeer is in Tokyo to seek support for the mainly Muslim community.

Rebiya Kadeer described a scene of chaos and bloodshed on the night of July 5 - clashes with police and a barrage of gunshots throughout Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

The head of the World Uighur Congress told Japanese journalists Wednesday that Chinese officials watched it all unfold and never stepped in to calm tensions.

She says that China claims 190 people died that day but she does not believe that. She says 10,000 people vanished overnight. "If they were killed where are the bodies? If they were taken away, where are they now?" she asked.

The violence began July 5 as Uighurs protested the way police had handled attacks on a Uighur workers in southeastern China.

A few days later, members of China's dominant Han ethnic group rampaged through Uighur neighborhoods in retaliation.

Since the fifth, Kadeer says Chinese police have gone door to door to seek out and detain Uighur men without cause. She worries about how much longer that will continue. She is visiting Japan to draw attention to that problem and seek help from the government.

She asks the Japanese government to begin its own investigation into the riots and search for the 10,000 missing. She also asked government leaders to pressure the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation.

China accuses Kadeer, who now lives in the United States, of masterminding the unrest. The Beijing government criticized Japan for allowing the exiled leader to visit, calling her a "criminal." Kadeer denies any involvement in the clashes and says the tension can only be resolved by direct talks between Beijing and Uighur leaders.

The Uighurs, who make up about half of the population of Xinjiang in northwestern China, complain of discrimination and say the government limits their religious practices. The Chinese government, however, says the Uighurs receive benefits that the Han do not, such as the right to have more children, and says Uighur dissidents want to create a separate nation in Xinjiang.

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