At least 140 were killed when ethnic Uighurs poured into the streets inXinjiang Province. China blamed the violence on foreign agitators.
It's the worst ethnic violence in China in years, if those numbers are correct, and a sign of how sharp ethnic tensions have become in the remote, desert region. Xinjiang's native ethnic Uighur population has long complained of discrimination by Han Chinese settlers who have flooded into the province and are now the majority.
Thousands of Uighurs poured into the streets of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, on Sunday, according to eyewitness accounts and photographs (Click here to see a CNN map of the region.) The New York Times reports that rioting raged for several hours on Sunday, before Chinese government troops locked down the main Uighur part of the city. The violence began after police challenged protesters who were demanding a probe into the killing of two Uighur workers in a June 26 brawl at a toy factory in southern Guangdong Province. That brawl was sparked by allegations that a Uighur worker or workers sexually assaulted a Han Chinese female worker.
At least 1,000 rioters took to the streets, throwing stones at the police and setting vehicles on fire. Plumes of smoke billowed into the sky, while police officers used fire hoses and batons to beat back rioters and detain Uighurs who appeared to be leading the protest, witnesses said.
Xinhua, China's state news agency, said its reporters personally saw the bodies of two Han Chinese who had been killed by rioters. The New York Times cited eyewitnesses who had seen Han Chinese being harassed by Uighurs, and dozens of Uighur men being led into police stations Sunday.