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China locks down Xinjiang a decade after deadly ethnic riots

Updated : 2019-07-06 12:52:07

A decade after deadly riots tore through his hometown, Kamilane Abudushalamu still vividly recalls the violence that left him an exile. On July 5, 2009, Abudushalamu was hiding with his father on the 10th floor of an office tower in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang region that is home to the Turkic Uighur ethnic minority. By a park, he spotted a bus on fire. Then he heard a crack as a motorcycle nearby exploded. Hours later, when he and his father stepped out to sprint home, he saw crowds of Uighurs stabbing Han Chinese in front of a middle school. The bodies of half a dozen people lay scattered on the streets — just a fraction of the estimated 200 killed that night. Abudushalamu and tens of thousands of other Uighurs now live in Turkey, cut off from friends and family back home. Analysts say the Urumqi riots set in motion the harsh security measures now in place across Xinjiang, where about 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims are estimated to be held in heavily guarded internment camps. Former detainees have told The Associated Press that within, they are subject to indoctrination and psychological torture. Abudushalamu was just 9 years old when the riots took place. At the time, he knew he was witnessing something terrible, but he never imagined where the following years would lead. "I thought Han and Uighur people could be at peace," he said. "The camps? I never thought that would happen.

Kamilane Abudushalamu poses for a photo along a walkway by the Mediterranean Sea in Istanbul, Turkey. Kamilane Abdushalamu was nine on July 5, 2019 when Uighurs attacked Han civilians prompting clashes that killed an estimated 200 people. Analysts say the Urumqi riots in 2009 set in motion the harsh security measures now in place across Xinjiang, where about 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims are estimated to be held in heavily-guarded internment camps _ also called
Kamilane Abudushalamu poses for a photo along a walkway by the Mediterranean Sea in Istanbul, Turkey. Kamilane Abdushalamu was nine on July 5, 2019 when Uighurs attacked Han civilians prompting clashes that killed an estimated 200 people. Analysts say the Urumqi riots in 2009 set in motion the harsh security measures now in place across Xinjiang, where about 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims are estimated to be held in heavily-guarded internment camps _ also called "re-education" camps _ which the Chinese government describes as vocational training centers. May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
Kamilane Abudushalamu poses for a photo along a walkway by the Mediterranean Sea in Istanbul, Turkey. May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
Kamilane Abudushalamu poses for a photo along a walkway by the Mediterranean Sea in Istanbul, Turkey. May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
Bystanders look at a truckload of paramilitary police with a banner which reads
Bystanders look at a truckload of paramilitary police with a banner which reads "Determined crackdown on separatist activities" patrol in the aftermath of riots in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang province, Analysts say the Urumqi riots in 2009 set in motion the harsh security measures now in place across Xinjiang, where about 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims are estimated to be held in heavily-guarded internment camps _ also called "re-education" camps _ which the Chinese government describes as vocational training centers. Thursday, July 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
A Uighur woman protests before a group of paramilitary police when journalists visited the area in the aftermath of riots in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang region. Tuesday, July 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A Uighur woman protests before a group of paramilitary police when journalists visited the area in the aftermath of riots in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang region. Tuesday, July 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Paramilitary police officers patrol in the aftermath of riots as Uighur men walk by in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province. July 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
Paramilitary police officers patrol in the aftermath of riots as Uighur men walk by in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province. July 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
Heavily armed Chinese police officers patrol near a mosque in a Uighur neighborhood in the aftermath of riots in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang region. July 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
Heavily armed Chinese police officers patrol near a mosque in a Uighur neighborhood in the aftermath of riots in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang region. July 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
A Han Chinese man carries a spiked steel bar while using his cell phone to take photos as he joins a mob of Han Chinese men attacking Uighur properties in the aftermath of attacks by the Uighurs in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province. July 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
A Han Chinese man carries a spiked steel bar while using his cell phone to take photos as he joins a mob of Han Chinese men attacking Uighur properties in the aftermath of attacks by the Uighurs in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province. July 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
Armed Han Chinese attempt to attack a suspected Uighur youth stuck in a tree in the aftermath of attacks by the Uighurs in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province. July 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
Armed Han Chinese attempt to attack a suspected Uighur youth stuck in a tree in the aftermath of attacks by the Uighurs in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province. July 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
Paramilitary police walk past an elderly ethnic minority man a day after Han Chinese mobs attacked Uighur in retaliation for earlier attacks in neighbourhoods in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang region. July 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
Paramilitary police walk past an elderly ethnic minority man a day after Han Chinese mobs attacked Uighur in retaliation for earlier attacks in neighbourhoods in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang region. July 8, 2009. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
A Uighur woman and a child walk past a burned car at a destroyed dealership in the Uighur section following riots in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province. July 15, 2009. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
A Uighur woman and a child walk past a burned car at a destroyed dealership in the Uighur section following riots in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province. July 15, 2009. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International's regional director for East and Southeast Asia speaks during an interview in Bangkok, Thailand. July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Kiko Rosario)
Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International's regional director for East and Southeast Asia speaks during an interview in Bangkok, Thailand. July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Kiko Rosario)
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