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Leisure weekend life in Urumqi -- hope overwhelming fear
2009/07/20

    URUMQI, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Doctor Wang Hongbo made his rounds in the hospital on Sunday, when he should have been enjoying his first day off over the past two weeks.

    He chose to remain busy after his work at the hospital this day -- helping his wife do laundry, doing some grocery shopping at a nearby supermarket and fixing the fluorescent lamp at home that he had been too busy to fix.

    After the July 5 riot in Urumqi which has left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 injured, Wang, along with his colleagues with Xinjiang Tumor Hospital, has been busy saving lives at the operating tables.

    On Sunday, he drove his wife and son to a restaurant in the violence-torn city, where he said he wanted to retrieve over diner the long-lost family gathering.

    "I don't mind the hustles and bustles in the restaurant at all," he said. "Instead, I felt the familiar sense of security came back."

    Also crowded was the People's Cinema in the downtown.

    "Without an access to the internet after the riot, I chose to watch films with my family to kill my boredom," said Kamailong, a student at Xinjiang Normal University, who was queuing for a ticket for blockbuster Ice Age 3.

    A busy ticket seller with the cinema told Xinhua that revenue had returned to almost as much as what it was before the incident.

    "Tickets of the newly released films, such as Harry Porter and The Half-Blood Prince and Ice Age 3, have been selling like hot cakes," she said.

    "I do feel joyfully relieved with the lines coming back," she added.

    Bai Xue, a senior high school graduate, did not go to the cinema. Instead, she took a bus and came to Hami Plaza in downtown Urumqi to take part in the first round competition of Miss Tourism, accompanied by her mother.

    Bai was not fully prepared as she had stayed indoor for a whole week after the bloody violence swept Urumqi on July 5. She had just resumed training for two days before the contest was finally unveiled.

    Cheng Jianrong, a regional executive chairman for the beauty competition, said that full efforts were needed to promote Xinjiang's cultural and economic industries and the competition was an important part.

    Aijamal was preparing for her wedding scheduled for August 2. She went to a wedding dress building on Shengli Street in Urumqi to choose a Uygur-styled gown with her fiance.

    Gyl, the owner of an adjacent shop, had not received any customer in the past two weeks, but she kept the door open hoping to attract possible buyers. Half of the twenty-plus shops in the building opened on Sunday.

    "It would be a peak season for weddings in the past," said Gyl, "as many Uygur customers hoped to get married before the arrival of Ramadan, and wedding gown shops would be full of people booking their seats for make-ups or renting clothes. But the July 5 riot dealt a deadly blow to our business as most of the reserved marriages had been postponed or canceled."

    Gyl just came back from a business trip to the southern city of Guangzhou on July 5, and all her goods had been kept in stock since then.

    With the return of customers on Sunday, however, Gyl regained confidence in the business potentials.

    Near the wedding dress building is a construction site of a viaduct, where Yang Tian and his three colleagues are busy digging holes.

    Yang, a 20-year-old something from the southwestern province of Sichuan less than two months ago, witnessed the riot after he arrived in Urumqi. The new comer did not hide his fears for the mobs, nor his willing to continue his work.

    "Business is business," he said.

    The renowned Erdaoqiao business area in downtown Urumqi, mainly inhabited by Uygur business people, also saw flows of customers, while police equipped with anti-riot gear patrol around.

    Scarf shop owner Semiliang was greatly relieved to see customers to come back. The business of the 19-year-old man fell stagnant after the July 5 riot and only saw signs of recovery in recent days.

    "It's much better these days. I can sell more than 100 scarves everyday," he said. "Orange and light gray-blue ones are most popular. They are almost sold out."

    It is common for Uygur women to have a dozen of scarves, a daily necessity for them. Semiliang goes to Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province for his supply of scarves every two months.

    "The scarves there are of good quality," he said.

    In the Shengli Street several blocks away from Erdaoqiao, the Arman Supermarket, which is famous for selling local Uygur food and grocery, reopened on July 10. The closing time was rescheduled from 23:00 to 20:00.

    The number of customers was no more than that of the supermarket workers in blue uniforms even on Sunday.

    Mosques opened to prayers as usual. Shoes lined outside the gate of Baida Mosque in downtown Urumqi. Afternoon prayer has already started, but people kept trotting in.

    In Hongshiyue community, one of the city's largest residential areas, old men were chatting under trees and kids were playing around.

    In an internet caf opposite to the Hongshiyue community, TanJiding, a sales representative from a pharmaceutical company in Guangdong Province, was watching American soap opera Friends provided by the caf.

    "Having no access to the internet here is really inconvenient. I cannot send e-mails to friends and customers or play online games," he said.

    Text message service in Xinjiang was also intercepted. Tan said he cannot receive information from his company timely as most of the company notices were sent to him by text message.

    "It seemed to me that I finally have enough time to watch the movies and TV series I had always wanted to watch," Tan said.

    On a street still under traffic control, one pick-up was shuttling back and forth slowly with speakers repeatedly broadcasting a government appeal in mandarin and Uygur alternatively, calling for ethnic unity and social stability.

    Outside the Tuanjie Huanyuan (Unity Garden) community, a notice issued by local authorities urging the public to report criminal suspects involved in the July 5 riot was pasted on a poster board side by side with an employment advertisement handwritten in Uygur.

    Red banners with Chinese and Uygur slogans were seen everywhere, calling on the public to "exercise restraint and do not believe in rumors" and "remain sober minded and do not be misled by enemies."

    As life gradually returned to normal in the city, those traumatized in the riot were struggling to walk out of the nightmare memory.

    "I didn't sleep well in the first week. What happened then kept coming to my mind. Now it's getting better," said Wang Shouchun, who was taken to the No. 23 Hospital in downtown Urumqi on the night of July 5.

    Forty three-year-old Wang was beaten by rioters with clubs and stones and had a broken rib and head and kidney injuries. "As I'm getting better day by day, I feel much more calm now," he said.

    Experts said that over the past two weeks, victims had experienced dramatic emotional fluctuations.

    "From being terrified, to numbness, anger, panic, insomnia and relative calmness.. The victims are getting better both physically and mentally," said Meng Xinzhen, a mental health expert.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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