Hu leaves G8 to deal with Xinjiang unrest

Chinese President Hu Jintao is shown in Rome, Italy, on Monday.
Chinese President Hu Jintao changed plans to attend a summit of major economic powers in Italy, instead returning home to address ethnic violence raking northwestern China, state-run media reported Wednesday.

Tensions have been simmering in Urumqi, the capital of China’s far-west Xinjiang region, where violent demonstrations over the weekend have left at least 156 people dead and more than 1,000 injured. The unrest in Urumqi was brought under control with a massive presence of soldiers and anti-riot squads, the government said Tuesday. Curfews were in force in major districts of the capital. Several small protests erupted despite the heavy police presence and were quickly defused. More than 1,400 suspects had been detained by Tuesday morning, the Xinhua news agency said, citing government officials conducting the investigation. Taking Hu’s place at the Group of Eight economic summit this week in Italy will be Dai Bingguo, China’s state councilor, Xinhua said.

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In-depth:  China

Xinjiang is home to many Uyghurs. China’s constitution guarantees ethnic minorities equal rights and limited autonomy. However, ethnic tensions run deep. Minority groups such as the Uyghurs complain that they are subjected to discrimination by the majority Han. See a map of Xinjiang There is speculation that Sunday’s protest, which took place in the predominantly Uyghur-populated Bazaar district, may have been a reaction to ethnic violence in southern China.

The violence took place late last month at a toy factory in Guangdong province, where many migrants, including Uyghurs, have moved in search of work. A massive brawl reportedly broke out between workers of Uyghur and Han nationalities. Two Uyghurs reportedly died. Police have detained 15 suspects in connection with that incident, state-run media reported Tuesday.