As the anniversary of last year’s deadly ethnic rioting in Urumqi approaches, thousands of surveillance cameras have been installed across the city as part of a security clampdown that has also seen Xinjiang recruit 5,000 more police. The cameras, which have ‘riot-proof’ casings, have been installed at bus stops, schools, shopping malls and in more than 4,000 other public places in Urumqi, according to Xinhua. More than 3,000 buses have also been fitted with the cameras, which are being monitored by police around the clock.
The clashes between local Uighurs and Han Chinese on July 5 last year left 197 people dead and more than 1,700 injured, the most serious outbreak of violence in decades in China’s restive western reaches. Police in the city have been conducting drills over the past month to deal with a possible similar recurrence of trouble, and have launched a crackdown in recent weeks on what is described as violent crime, stepping up street patrols and vehicle searches. This seems to have included the break up of a group that is said to have planned terrorist attacks in southern Xinjiang last year around the time of the Beijing Olympics and which were behind the attack on a police station in Kashgar in 2008. Authorities linked the group to the banned East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a nebulous pro-independence organization long vilified as a terrorist group by Beijing.
At the same time a propaganda campaign is underway to promote the plans for economic development in the natural-resource-rich province announced earlier this year. Authorities are determined the anniversary will pass without significant disturbance but relations between the Turkic-speaking Uighurs and the Han Chinese newcomers remain tense, and unsettling for Beijing.