A second strong signal has been sent to Beijing by its 'autonomous' regions in little more than a year.
In terms of casualties, the ethnic violence in Xinjiang, which left at least 197 Han Chinese and Uighurs dead, is the worst since the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Following the violence in Tibet in March 2008, it is also the second strong signal sent to Beijing by its 'autonomous' regions in little more than a year.
Beijing is wrong when it accuses "anti-China forces" abroad of sparking the riots ("What Europe should understand about the violence in Urumqi", 23-29 July). The protests in Xinjiang were the result of long-standing frustration and rancour against Beijing's policy of economic, social and political marginalisation of the Uighurs in their ancestral lands. Beijing has steadily deprived the Uighurs of their identity, their culture, their language, the management of their society and their development - while for years demonising all opponents as separatists and terrorists.
Beijing has used a demographic weapon, by encouraging Han Chinese to contribute to the economic development of Xinjiang by moving to that region.
In 1955, Uighurs represented 74.7% of Xinjiang's population; that percentage has since fallen to 47%. Those immigrant Han are now the first victims of violence.
Xinjiang's Han do not understand the roots of this violence, because they are not aware that they are perceived as invaders by the local population.
A Han-Uighur dialogue is needed. But when Yili Hamu (also known as Ilham Tohti), a highly-regarded Uighur economics professor at Minzu University in Beijing, created a website dedicated to the promotion of a Han-Uighur dialogue, Beijing's response was repression. On 6 July, he was seized and taken to an unknown destination by security agents. So far, 158 courageous Han Chinese academics have signed a petition asking for his release.
Beijing should understand that colonisation is itself an incitement to separatism, not a contribution to harmony. It should recognise that people like Yili Hamu want to bring harmony.
Director, Human Rights Without Frontiers
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Human Rights in China After the Olympics