Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The Italian prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (right) jokes with the Chinese president Hu Jintao after signing economic agreements in Rome.
The Italian prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (right) jokes with the Chinese president Hu Jintao after signing economic agreements in Rome.

Hu leaves G8 to deal with China unrest

The Chinese president cuts short a trip to the G8 summit to deal with the crisis in China's Xinjiang region.

The Chinese president Hu Jintao cut short a trip to Italy for the G8 summit and returned home today to deal with the crisis in China's Xinjiang region, in what observers said was an unprecedented move. Mr Hu's sudden return came after fresh ethnic strife erupted yesterday in Urumqi, capital of China's north-west region, as thousands of Han Chinese armed with makeshift weapons marched through the city where 156 died in weekend riots.

He arrived in China early today "in light of the current situation in Xinjiang," the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website. The G8 summit was set to open today in the central Italian town of L'Aquila and, although China is not a member of the Group of Eight nations, much of the talks were to include emerging powers. Mr Hu's decision not to attend the summit and postpone a subsequent state visit to Portugal was "unprecedented," according to Jean-Pierre Cabestan, professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.

"I have never seen a Chinese president shorten a trip abroad before. They never tell you there are ever any signs of panic, [but] there is clear concern," he said. "It shows that no important decisions can be taken without him ? he is the only link between civil and military power." Mr Hu is head of the Central Military Commission, which wields power over the nation's armed forces, as well as being Communist Party chief and president.

Sarah McDowall, a political analyst for research group IHS Global Insight, said his return from such a high-profile summit illustrated high governmental concern over the unrest. "He was expected to push for China to have a more important role in developing international monetary policy at the G8, which is a hot topic at the moment," she said. "So the fact that he's flying back in a complete last minute turnaround shows there is major concern among the top leadership."

The state councillor Dai Bingguo will take part in the G8 summit on Mr Hu's behalf, the foreign ministry said. The chaos that gripped Urumqi yesterday came in response to unrest two days earlier that saw thousands of members of the mainly Muslim Uighur community take to the streets in deadly riots that also led to more than 1,000 injuries. Today, Urumqi was once again plunged into chaos as Han Chinese and Uighurs rearmed themselves with makeshift weapons, leading to confrontations and violence, despite a massive show of force by the Chinese military.

The Han are China's dominant ethnic group, making up 91.5 per cent of the nation's 1.3 billion people, according to the latest government figures. But in Xinjiang, a vast region of deserts and mountains bordering Central Asia, eight million Turkic-speaking Uighurs make up nearly half the population. Uighurs have consistently complained about discrimination and repression under communist Chinese rule over the past 60 years, accusations the government denies.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 A view of a defaced portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an anti-North Korean rally on the 102nd birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung in central Seoul. Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Best photography from around the world, April 15

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National