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Special> Focus on Xinjiang> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: July 15, 2009
Beyond Ethnicity
Ethnic Uygur residents protect their ethnic Han neighbors in Urumqi riot

On the evening of July 5, as deadly riots engulfed Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, 17 ethnic Uygur residents in a residential compound on Houquan Street protected an ethnic Han couple from the violence.

Eighteen households were living in the compound, 17 ethnic Uygurs and one ethnic Han couple. "At about 9 p.m. on July 5, we suddenly heard someone on the street shouting 'Hide, quickly,'" said one resident in an interview on July 7. "Then we saw the residents breaking into a panic. So we closed the gate of our compound immediately and held it shut with big stones."

Wumaier Aili, an ethnic Uygur resident, described the details of how they protected their ethnic Han neighbors.

"When the riot happened on July 5, all of us were in the compound, including the ethnic Han couple," Wumaier Aili recalled. "They were so scared. We told them to get into their room, or they would be hurt."

"The couple hid in their room. Then we heard the noise of smashing and burning, and we saw everywhere was on fire. The couple ran out again," Wumaier Aili said. "We told the couple, 'Don't be afraid! We are here to protect you! Don't worry, you will be fine as long as we are here.'"

Finally, with the help of the ethnic Uygur residents, the couple moved to another ethnic Uygur's house that had an iron gate, and safely escaped from the disaster. The couple has since been picked up by relatives.

When asked why they protected ethnic Han people, Wumaier Aili said, "Human beings are the same, regardless of their ethnic group or race. Their lives and property should be protected, they should not be hurt."

(Source: The Beijing News translated by LIU YUE)

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