x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

China relents on mosque closures

Hundreds of Uighur Muslims are expected in at least one mosque in riot-struck Urumqi for Friday prayers.

URUMQI, CHINA // Hundreds of Uighur Muslims crowded into at least one mosque in riot-struck Urumqi today after authorities relented on a decision to close mosques for the main day of prayer to minimise ethnic tension. Security forces have imposed control over Urumqi, but the afternoon prayers will be a test of the government's ability to contain Uighur anger after Han Chinese, China's predominant ethnic group, attacked Uighur neighbourhoods on Tuesday. Those attacks were in revenge for the deaths of 156 people in Uighur rioting on Sunday, the region's worst ethnic violence in decades. The decision to silence collective prayers could rankle, but thousands of troops and anti-riot police appeared ready to quell any fresh Uighur protests.

Beijing cannot afford to lose its grip on the vast territory that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, has abundant oil reserves and is China's largest natural gas-producing region. *Reuters