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Police Rush To Impose Order After Xinjiang Riot

A man sits under a poster for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on a street in Xinjiang in August 2008.
BEIJING (Reuters) -- Rioters in China's far west Xinjiang region burned vehicles and blocked traffic in the regional capital, Urumqi, and police rushed to the scene to impose order, the state news agency has reported.

The rioters were "attacking passers-by and setting fire to vehicles," the brief Xinhua news agency report said. "They also turned over [a] traffic guardrail and interrupted traffic on some roads in the city," it added.

The report did not specify the ethnicity of those involved in the unrest.

A Beijing source who said he had spoken to an eyewitness who said they were Uyghurs, a largely Muslim group with a language and culture close to the Turkic peoples of Central Asia.

The conflict broke out near a city market, bringing thousands onto the street, said that source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Many Uyghurs resent Han Chinese rule, complaining they are marginalized economically and politically in their own land, which has rich mineral and natural-gas reserves.

The Xinhua report did not say how many people were involved in the unrest or what their grievances were.

Almost half of Xinjiang's 20 million people are Uyghurs. Many of them resent controls imposed by Beijing and an inflow of Han Chinese migrants.

The population of Urumqi is largely Han Chinese.