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NZ MP Was In Urumqi Just Before Violence Broke Out

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Chris Carter
Chris Carter

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, July 7 NZPA - Labour MP Chris Carter, who was in a Chinese province just before violence broke out, says tensions were visible in the lead up to ethnic riots.

He spent the last week of June on a government-sponsored trip, visiting the cities of Urumqi and Turpan in the Xinjiang region, where 156 people have since been killed in violence between the minority Uighur people and ethnic Han Chinese.

"I could see the situation was quite tense," Mr Carter told NZPA.

"The divide between the different ethnic communities in Xinjiang is quite clear. There's very little intermarriage between the different communities and there was a very heavy Chinese military and police presence in Urumqi and in Turpan."

Armed police were present on flights into the province, because of concerns about Muslim and Uighur nationalism in the far west."

He met members of the Uighur community.

There had been incidents in the past, threats made during the Olympics and the Chinese government were sensitive about security.

"The Chinese were very concerned too that members of the Uighur community had been captured in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan fighting with the Taliban."

Recently issues with Uighur imprisoned in Guantanamo being moved elsewhere had highlighted that issue.

"China is very concerned about Uighur nationalism and particularly Muslim separatist feelings in the far west," Mr Carter said.

It was concerning to hear about the reported deaths.

"If those reports are accurate... I certainly would condemn violence towards demonstrators but I can acknowledge that the Chinese government had very serious concerns about security in the far west."

Mr Carter seems to attract trouble -- he was in Bangkok in April on his recess holiday when violent protests broke out.

He is now in the United Kingdom on Labour Party business.

Mr Carter said he had learned a lot about Xinjiang region and issues through the trip.

"What I think has not come through in the media is that Xinjiang actually has got large minority communities of other communities as well. There are two million Kazakhs that live there who again are a very distinctive nationality."

There was little mixing between communities.

While in China Mr Carter, who is Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, met deputy ministers of education, foreign affairs.

"I did have discussions with high ranking Chinese officials about the situation."

In Britain Mr Carter talked to Chris Bryan who is responsible for Australia and New Zealand issues and to an education minister.

Mr Carter returns to New Zealand next Sunday.

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