At least five people are now known to have died in protests this week in China’s restive province of Xinjiang. Thousands of Han Chinese took to the streets of the capiptal Urumqi and other towns, demanding more protection from ethnic Uighur gangs. The Han say the authorities were slow to react to Uighur protests in July when nearly 200 people, mostly Han Chinese, died.
It is not known if the latest victims are Han or Uighur, but tensions are threatening to boil over in a region far from Beijing. The Han also report being attacked with syringes – Xinjiang has China’s highest rate of HIV. Xinjiang is a remote region, rich in raw materials, but close to states in central Asia where instability threatens to spill over the border. Beijing has sent thousands of troops onto the streets in an effort to crackdown on the protests. The government has also banned all unlicensed marches and demonstrations.