BEIJING – The main market at the center of China's riot-torn Urumqi city reopened Wednesday, state media reported, while an exile group said Uighur students had called for the release of those still detained after this month's riots.
On July 5, Uighur rioters attacked the majority Han Chinese after police attempted to stop a protest over the deaths of Uighur workers in southern China.
According to the official death toll, 197 people died in that riot. Two days later, Han Chinese mounted revenge attacks on Uighurs, a Muslim people native to Xinjiang with cultural ties to Turkey and Central Asia.
Over two weeks later, the normally bustling Grand Bazaar complex has reopened as the city returns to normal, Xinhua said, but added that only a few hundred customers had turned up.
Security forces had made the bazaar and nearby mosque at the end of Jiefeng Road a central focus of patrols in Urumqi this month. It houses thousands of shops as well as a Carrefour supermarket and a banquet hall featuring ethnic dancing.
About half the shops at the bazaar opened. The number of security guards was doubled to 70, and knives were banned from sale, Wuxkur Yunus, deputy manager of the bazaar, told Xinhua.
Nearby shops had already reopened in the week immediately following the riots.
Students still left in Urumqi after universities closed early for the summer had put up posters at schools and bus stops, calling for a release of students still detained after the riots, said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, the exile group that China blames for the riots.
The posters, which appeared Monday evening, also demanded an end to repressive policies, and a halt to a government campaign against Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled Uighur businesswoman whom China also blames, Raxit said.
The posters could not be independently confirmed. Internet access is still cut off in Xinjiang, and calls to several universities were unanswered.
A person who answered the telephone at the Agricultural University said they were unaware of any posters.
(Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Sugita Katyal)