2009 Xinjiang China Riots
Paramilitary police in riot gear block a road at the centre of Urumqi in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region September 3, 2009. Reuters

Last week, a clash between local Uyghurs and Chinese police officials in China’s Northwestern Xinjiang province left 35 people dead, including Chinese security personnel, and several others injured. Subsequently, Chinese state media blamed the United States for encouraging “terrorism” in the Xinjiang area where riots erupted, instead of long-witnessed ethnic tensions in the region. Beijing has vowed to crack down on the “terrorist groups” that were responsible for the stabbing and killing of several policemen in the area.

China’s central government has also stepped up their military presence in the area, conducting military exercises ahead of this Friday’s anniversary of major riots that took place in 2009, a traumatic episode that highlighted mounting tensions between the Uyghur minorities and Han Chinese, which left roughly 200 people dead.

"We will step up actions to crack down upon terrorist groups and extremist organisations and track the wanted," Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Party's Politburo Standing Committee, said, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The People’s Daily, a state-run newspaper that operates as the mouthpiece for the Communist Party, has alleged that the U.S. government and “foreign media” have played a role in inciting the violence in its western autonomous area. “For fear of a lack of chaos in China,” the People’s Daily commentary said, the US was “conspiring to direct the calamity of terrorist activities toward China.” “America’s double standards on the issue of countering terrorism is no different than incitement and indulgence … How is this different than those who act as accomplices to terrorism?” the report said.

The commentary also pointed out that the US itself suffers from deep racial and ethnic enmities, while concurrently claiming that “violent terrorist incidents in Xinjiang are not an ethnic issue or a religious issue.” However, many on Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging service, disagree, citing that Chinese own aggressive policies instigate the deadly violence in its far west. “To foster cultural identity and a fair system is far more effective than sending troops to ‘maintain stability.’ Our ethnic polices are the root of all [these] problems. [We need to] give [Uyghur] young people the hope [to] prosper in the future and make them feel like a member of this country. Playing tough [is] no use,” one blogger wrote, according to China-blog OffbeatChina.com.

Others were more direct in pinning the issues of the Uyghur ethnic minority on official inaction in the region. The Uyghurs often claim that they are marginalized by the predominantly Han Chinese who have migrated into the state, leaving them powerless. Similar to the Tibetans, the Uyghurs in Xinjiang Uyghurs complain of ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious restrictions, and high poverty and joblessness.

The Uyghurs are a Turkic people and predominantly Muslim; in Xinjiang, they live among Han Chinese settlers who arrived from what they call The Inland. Uyghurs are pushing for Xinjiang's autonomy from China.