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China official says police killed 12 in regional ethnic violence

[JURIST] Nur Bekri, chairman of the government in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region [official website], told the Xinhua News Agency [official website] Sunday that twelve "mobsters" had been fatally shot by police in the Chinese city of Urumqi on July 5 [Xinhua report] in riots that received extensive coverage in the West. Nur Bekri went on the say that the police had fired warning shots and that he was making the announcement in order "to erase the negative effects of the riots in the shortest period of time."

Shortly after the rioting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for restraint [press release] from all sides and a respect for due process in arrests and prosecutions. Pillay's remarks come two days after violence broke out [NYT report] between Han Chinese and Uighur residents in Xinjiang's regional capital. The Chinese government says [Xinhua report] that the majority of those killed in the violence were Han residents killed by protesters, although the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur American Association [advocacy websites] say that many protesters were killed by authorities but not included in the official death toll. The Uighur population, which is Muslim, is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice, and say that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.

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