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China plans intense surveillance of Uighurs

Associated Press / January 26, 2011

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BEIJING — China is putting a western city where deadly ethnic violence broke out in 2009 under full surveillance, ensuring “seamless’’ coverage of sensitive areas of the city with tens of thousands of cameras, state media reported yesterday.

Security has been tight in Urumqi since tensions between the area’s largely Muslim Uighurs and members of the country’s Han majority flared into open violence in 2009. Uighurs have long resented what they see as an incursion by Han migrants into their ancestral homeland, the Xinjiang region.

The government says 197 people were killed in that outbreak of violence, the deadliest in Xinjiang in years. China has sentenced dozens of people for their involvement in the riots, most of them Uighurs. Beijing blamed overseas Uighur groups for plotting the violence, but exile groups denied it.

Just before the one-year anniversary of the violence last year, officials said about 40,000 high-definition surveillance cameras with riot-proof protective shells had been installed throughout the region. Nearly 17,000 were installed in Urumqi last year, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday. It was not clear if that figure was in addition to the one reported last year.

The surveillance coverage will continue to grow this year, according to Urumqi’s mayor, Jerla Isamudinhe, who spoke to the city’s Legislature over the weekend, Xinhua reported.

Surveillance is “seamless’’ — meaning there are no blind spots — in sensitive areas of the city, according to the report.

It’s not unusual to see surveillance cameras by the thousands in Chinese cities, and authorities have installed them in sensitive areas like mosques in Xinjiang and in temples in Tibet, which saw ethnic violence in 2008.

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