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Australian, German Leaders Condemn Clashes in China’s Northwest

By Patrick Donahue, Bloomberg
July 07, 2009

July 7 (Bloomberg) -- Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned violence in northwestern China and urged clashing ethnic groups to resolve the unrest peacefully.

Rudd, who met with Merkel in Berlin, called reports of the violence “disturbing.” The chancellor said the rights of minorities within China must be protected.

“The Australian government will call upon China’s government and all parties to exercise necessary restraint,” Rudd told reporters after the two leaders met today.

Hundreds of people from rival ethnic groups in the northwestern Xinjiang province fought each other with machetes, metal pipes and bricks in the provincial capital, Urumqi. The deadly clashes, which started at the weekend, escalated between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese. At least 156 people have been killed.

Merkel said she would discuss the violence with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week when leaders of the Group of Eight meet in the Italian city of L’Aquila. Hu is scheduled to attend the meeting even though China isn’t a member of the G-8.

“We support the one-China policy, but on the other hand the rights of the minorities must be guaranteed,” Merkel said.

Minority groups in China have complained of discrimination and restrictions on religious and cultural practices. China’s investment in restive territories such as Tibet and Xinjiang has led to a wave of migration by the Han Chinese, who make up more than 90 percent of the country’s population, exacerbating tensions.

“There are continuing human rights problems in China, I’ve never shied away from that fact,” said Rudd, a Mandarin- speaking former diplomat. “That is the reality.”

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