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Traffic curfew lifted, tension remains in Urumqi(07/08/09)


Armed police patrol on a road in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on July 8, 2009. The city has lifted a traffic curfew on Wednesday morning, which began on 9:00 p.m. Tuesday.(Xinhua/Sadat)
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by Xinhua writers Bai Xu, Li Zhihui

URUMQI, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Urumqi appeared to be calm under heavy paramilitary police presence Wednesday after an overnight traffic curfew, but sporadic standoffs and clashes were still reported.

Although the so-called "comprehensive traffic curfew" has ended, traffic restrictions were imposed in some major streets, with members of the Armed Police guarding or patrolling. Armored personnel carriers stood by.

More people appeared in the streets than yesterday, but Xinhua reporters saw less traffic in the morning, and even fewer buses.

Urumqi has about 1,000 buses in total, among which 190 were damaged or torched in the riot that began Sunday night, in which 156 people died, and 1,080 were injured.

During half an hour from 9:30 to 10 a.m. Wednesday, only one No. 14 bus traveled along Guangming Road, with about 10 passengers on board. Normally, the fully-loaded No. 14 buses pass the street every five minutes in the morning.

People buy vegetables at a market in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on July 8, 2009. (Xinhua/Jiang Yaowen)
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Urumqi Airport is crowded with people anxious to leave.

Li Qian holding her seven-year-old son hurried to catch a flight. She flew to Xinjiang for tourism but cancelled her plan to go to the Tianchi Lake about 110 kilometers from Urumqi.

After the riot, Li said she just wanted to go back home. She had planned to stay at the airport from Tuesday evening but couldn't reach it because of the curfew.

On Wednesday, she took the shuttle bus to the airport -- there were just a few taxis on the streets.

Those who are not able to get a handy ticket have gone to nearby hotels. "We fear Xinjiang is not safe anymore," said a passenger, who refused to be named.

Nearly all the hotels next to the airport were full. A Xinhua reporter learnt that as they were 17 kilometers away from the downtown area, people normally did not want to stay in those hotels. Only half of the rooms were occupied before the riot.

Parents take their children to a park in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on July 8, 2009. (Xinhua/Sadat)
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In this capital city, women hustled to store extra groceries in the house and some office workers were given a day off.

At a roadside morning market where 50 members of the Armed Police were patrolling, at least one-third of the stalls were empty.

Prices of the vegetables were generally two- to- three times higher than before. A kilogram of haricot beans, previously two yuan, was sold at six yuan, while potatoes, originally 1.5 yuan, soared to 3.5 yuan per kilogram.

But a woman who gave her name as Niu still chose to buy a lot to store at home so that she wouldn't have to go out frequently. "Vegetables could be more expensive tomorrow," she said.

Many neighborhood stores were closed. Their owners said their food and bottled water were sold out.

Some people stayed at home instead of going to work on Wednesday.

Su Can, 27, works in an airlines company. She and her colleagues took turns to stay at home.

"I don't want to go out and my friends said that we could just make phone calls to each other."

Li Gang, a local resident, said his company gave workers a day off and asked them not to leave their houses.

"I know from the news report that many rioters were arrested," he said.

"Now that the streets are guarded and helicopters are hovering, I think the social order could be restored."

Passengers wait to take a train at the Urumqi Railway Station in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on July 8, 2009. (Xinhua/Hou Jun)
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No matter Han or Uygur, people are worried that the riot would leave a rift between them.

Azgul works in a hotel and has many Han friends. After the riot, some of her friends called to tell her stay indoors and be careful.

"I was touched," she said.

But in another sense, she felt that her living condition was changed and she was unsure whether her friendship could last.

The 27-year-old girl is preparing for her wedding.

"Can my Han friends attend my wedding ceremony?" she frowned.

Dong Qiang who works at a local website was born in Xinjiang.

"For a long time I felt that different ethnic groups coexist in harmony and I like the place very much," he said.

On Sunday evening he was in the office, overlooking the Donghuan market where much of the violence erupted.

"If I were there, I might have been dead," he said.

The man in his 40s had a child, and he believed that he had taken root in Xinjiang.

"The riot could deal a heavy blow to the local economy," he said.

But what he cared about more was "could we go back to what we were before? If the answer is yes, then how long should we wait?"

(Reportings by Xinhua correspondents He Zhanjun, He Jun, Huang Yan, Zhang Hongchi, Ji Shaoting and Li Jianmin in Urumqi)



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