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Feature: Friendship, unity prevail despite violence in China's Xinjiang
2009/07/15
    Rizgan took an hour-long bus ride to downtown Urumqi to donate blood for those injured in Sunday's deadly riot.

    "I'm furious at the brutal killings and hope to help those innocent people with my own blood," said the Uygur woman in her 50s.

    As she was waiting in a long queue of volunteer donors at a temporary collection station on Friendship Road, Rizgan offered boiled eggs she brought from home to other donors.

    Six days after the bloodshed in Urumqi, capital of the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the death toll has climbed to 156.

    The riot in Xinjiang, the worst in six decades, caused a severe shortage of blood at local hospitals where more than 1,000 injured people were rushed in Sunday night.

    Shortly after the shortage was reported, many citizens rolled up their sleeves, donating 200,000 mm of blood on Monday alone.

    On Friday, Urumqi's blood center announced the shortage had been eased, but donors continued to pour in.

    "Luckily I made an appointment with the station -- otherwise they wouldn't have taken my blood," said Gao Wensheng, a businessman in Urumqi, as he filled out a health form.

    Insurance agent Han Yingjun was not as lucky: He visited three blood collection stations in two days but was unable to make a donation.

    "When it was my turn, I was told they had collected enough for the day."

    The city's blood center has placed a cap on daily collection since the shortage was eased, said official Wang Boling. "The shelf life of fresh blood is only 35 days and we don't want to waste any."

    13: LUCKY NUMBER AT ADVENTUROUS NIGHT

    "Many Westerners think number 13 is unlucky, but for us, it is auspicious," said Kamil Tursun, president of the Xinjiang Center for Performing Arts.

    When the riot broke out Sunday evening, more than 700 performers and audience members were attending a dance contest. They were from 13 ethnic groups and were trapped for 13 hours at the center, fearing they might get killed out on the streets.

    Kamil Tursun told the Han people to stay inside the theater with all the women, elderly and children.

    "All the ethnic people followed my advice to keep guard outside in the hall," he said. "We know the rioters would target the Han people, so young men of ethnic minorities formed a defense wall at the entrance."

    As artistic director Hanisi Hapiz put it, "It was like a fault line between heaven and hell."

    Video recordings shot by the center's security camera showed the theater gate opened several times that night to fleeing citizens chased by the rioters.

    The 700-odd people, most of whom were complete strangers to each other, shared the 200 steamed buns available in the staff canteen, and huddled together for the night. "They fell asleep pillowing their heads on each other's legs," said Kamil Tursun.

    Dilnur, 39 and nine months pregnant, was given the theater's only bed: a prop on the stage. "Had the theater not allowed me to stay, who knows what would have happened on my way home?"

    FRIENDSHIP AS FOREIGNERS SEE IT

    "We often play basketball and go to the school canteen together," said Tokhtamov Zukhrullam, an exchange student from Kazakhstan, of the friendship with his schoolmates.

    "Before I came, I heard about the alleged 'tension' between the Han and Uygur people in Xinjiang and was pretty cautious to start with," said Zukhrullam, who has studied for two years at Xinjiang University. "Now I've come to like them and made some very good friends, too."

    Zukhrullam spends most weekends with his Uygur and Han friends. "They help me a lot in Chinese language and culture."

    "I think my Uygur and Han classmates are more different as individuals than different ethnic groups," said Jury Jin Hee from the Republic of Korea. "They're still friendly and get along with each other after the riot."

    At least 3,000 overseas students are studying in Urumqi. Some of them have gone home or left for sightseeing tours as the summer holidays have begun.

    Canadian teacher Josph Kaber said he sensed tension when some Uygur-run stores on campus were closed after Sunday's riot. "The very next day, young couples were seen strolling by the artificial lake again, and I knew things were getting better."

    Maura Sandra Fernandez, from the Philippines, said she received text message greetings from her students after the riot.

    "I've taught in Urumqi for seven years. I love my students and they love me, too. I was relieved to find out not a single student of mine was involved in the violence."

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