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EU Parliament Rights Head Calls For Uyghur Inquiry

A U.S.-based Uyghur group issued this photo soon after the Xinxiang violence erupted, showing clashes in Urumqi.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- The head of the European Parliament's human rights committee has backed a call for an independent international inquiry into deadly riots in northwest China's Xinjiang region in July.

"We have got some quite worrying information about events of July 5," Heidi Hautala told a joint news conference with Rebiya Kadeer, exiled leader of China's largely Muslim Uyghur ethnic group who earlier addressed the parliamentary committee.

"I believe that there is a case for an independent international investigation so that all human rights violations from all sides can be cleared and investigated," Hautala said.

She said such an inquiry should be conducted by the United Nations with the backing of the European Union.

In Xinjiang's worst ethnic violence in decades, Uyghur rioters attacked majority Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5 after taking to the streets to protest against attacks on Uyghur workers at a factory in south China in June in which two Uyghurs died. Han Chinese in Urumqi sought revenge two days later.

The violence left 197 people dead, mostly Han Chinese, and wounded more than 1,600, according to official figures.

Uyghurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia, make up almost half of Xinjiang's 20 million people.

Kadeer said some 10,000 Uyghurs were missing following the riots and accused the Chinese Communist government of pursuing a policy resembling "cultural genocide" in what Uyghurs call East Turkestan.

She called in July on the international community to send an independent investigative team to the site of the riots.

"The arrests and detentions continue," she told the news conference, adding that most were teenage students who, she said, were being tortured in detention.

Kadeer accused the Chinese authorities of using the international battle against Islamist militancy and the global economic downturn as pretexts to repress the Uyghur people.