Wednesday, 15 December 2010
China: A Uighur woman peers through a security fence as Chinese soldiers look on in Urumqi, Xinjiang, on July 9, 2009. The northwestern Chinese autonomous region is home to 13 major ethnic groups, the largest of which -- at about 45 percent of the population -- is the Uighurs. Although the region is classified as autonomous, some Uighurs have called for outright independence since the mid-1990s. While China has made attempts to further integrate Xinjiang, ethnic tensions, combined with religious repression and economic disparities between Han Chinese and Uighurs, have only made matters worse. When Uighur rioting broke out in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in July 2009, government forces dealt with the protests harshly; at least 150 people died.