17 July 2009

Unrest in Urumqi, China

Home of Uighurs and an SOS Children’s Village

Violent clashes between ethnic Han Chinese and Uighurs, a Turkic minority living in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, began in early July. The Uighurs, who are Muslim, have chafed for years under Chinese rule in this western region. Some advocate independence. The July 5th skirmish resulted in 184 deaths, according to the Chinese government; most of them were Han.

The recent conflict was sparked by a fight between Uighurs and Han at a factory in far-off Guangdong Province.

Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, is 70 percent Han due to decades of government policy that has encouraged Han Chinese to settle there.  Since early July, armed groups of men from both ethnic groups have been roaming the streets of Urumqi seeking revenge for the victims of the violence.

Beijing has long valued control over the ethnic peoples living in its border regions, which also include Tibet. Xinjiang is majority Uighur but Han Chinese hold most positions of power. The Uighurs accuse the Chinese government of suppressing local language and culture and discriminating against them in job hiring; the Han view the Uighurs as ungrateful for the economic development they have brought to the area.

SOS Children’s Villages-Urumqi Safe Despite the Strife

China’s western regions are much less developed than its populous coastal areas. Poverty in Xinjiang, a desert landscape rich in oil, has resulted in families that are unable to care for their children. SOS Children’s Villages, a worldwide charity that provides loving homes to abandoned children, has been in China since 1987 and in Urumqi since 2001. SOS-Urumqi is one of ten SOS Children’s Villages in China. The Village is a four-hour plane ride from Beijing.

To date, the children and mothers at SOS Children's Village-Urumqi remain unharmed; the Village is not in an area directly affected by the violence.

Located in western Urumqi, the SOS Children’s Village has fourteen family homes for 140 orphans. A kindergarten cares for 120 children, including those from the local community. A school, which is part of Xinjiang Agriculture University, is close by.

SOS operates on the premise that every child deserves a caring SOS mother, siblings, a home, and a supportive community. If you would like to help a child from Xinjiang find a secure home and a bright future, consider sponsoring an SOS child.