China blames exiles for Uighur riot
China's government has blamed Uighur exiles for inciting a riot in the country's western Xinjiang region that it says left more than 100 people dead.
The official Xinhua news agency said the deaths came in the city of Urumqi on Sunday after a protest against the government's handling of an industrial dispute turned violent.
Xinhua said rioters burned and smashed vehicles, and fought with police, while state broadcaster CCTV showed footage of people throwing rocks at police and overturning a police car.
Xinhua had reported earlier that four people died in the clashes, including one police officer.
But follow-up reports put the number at 129.
Uighur exile groups have said they believe some Uighurs may also have died in the clashes, while dozens are thought to have been arrested as police cracked down on those they believe were behind the protests.
Xinhua said the situation in the city was "under control" on Monday, with police reported to be out in force.
One local resident contacted by the Reuters news agency said Urumqi, situated 3,200km west of Beijing, was "basically under martial law".
Xinhua said local officials had ordered traffic off the streets in parts of the city to ensure there was no fresh unrest.
"The facts demonstrate this was controlled and instigated from abroad," an unnamed official said of the riot, according to Xinhua.
The report also said the "unrest was masterminded by the World Uighur Congress" led by Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur businesswoman who was jailed for years in China before being released into exile in the US.
"This was a crime of violence that was pre-meditated and organised," Xinhua said.
China has blamed ethnic separatists and Muslim extremists for stoking unrest in Xinjiang over the past decade.
But critics of Beijing say many Uighurs are angry at what they see as the growing dominance in the region of Han Chinese – China's main ethnic group.
Uighur exile groups have adamantly rejected the Chinese government claim of a plot, saying Sunday's riot was an outpouring of pent-up anger over government policies.
"They're blaming us as a way to distract the Uighurs' attention from the discrimination and oppression that sparked this protest," Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uighur Congress in Sweden, told Reuters.
"It began as a peaceful assembly. There were thousands of people shouting to stop ethnic discrimination, demanding an explanation... They are tired of suffering in silence."
In the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, Xinjiang was hit by several deadly attacks the authorities said were the work of "terrorists".
But human rights groups and Uighur activists say China exaggerates the threat to justify harsh controls restricting peaceful political demands.