Families allowed to reclaim bodies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 July, 2009, 12:00am

The sound of weeping filled the funeral parlours in Urumqi yesterday as families rushed to claim bodies of their beloved killed in the deadly riots on Sunday.

Five days after the worst ethnic violence in recent decades ripped the once-peaceful city apart, victims' families were finally allowed to claim bodies of their family members. Some bodies were badly mutilated.

A Han Chinese man, surnamed Wang, said the body of his brother-in-law was so beyond recognition that they had to do a DNA test to confirm his identity.

'You would never understand our pain. You can't imagine how he was terribly mutilated beyond recognition,' Mr Wang said. He said his family started searching for his brother-in-law on Monday after he failed to return home on Sunday after work.

'We called the police and searched through all the hospitals. My sister is a doctor so she has access to all the intensive care rooms, but we still couldn't find him,' Mr Wang said.

The police finally called the family on Thursday and told them a body that had 'certain resemblance' to their missing family member was found. A DNA test later confirmed it.

Some families waiting to claim the body at the Urumqi No2 funeral parlour were Hui Muslims. They were particularly anxious to get the bodies back because their traditions required bodies to be buried within three days. Yesterday was already the fifth day since the riots first broke out.

All Han Chinese victims were required to be cremated according to official regulation. Some Muslims earlier feared the government would force them to do the same - which would go against their religion.

But they were relieved after being told that Uygur and Hui Muslims could freely choose whether to bury or cremate their family members.

Hu Fulin, a Hui Muslim people, said he had borrowed money to bury his brother-in-law as soon as possible. 'I borrowed some money from friends. It has already passed the three-day period and we can't wait,' he said, referring to the tradition.

With the help of friends, relatives and some government workers, the body was carried to a suburban mosque for a religious ceremony before being hastily buried.

Mr Hu said it was unfortunate that his brother-in-law could not be buried in the first three days, but he did not blame the authorities. 'They [officials] helped us find his body and locate a suitable burial ground for us. I think they have done what they could,' he said.

But Mr Wang was still seething with anger over his brother-in-law's death and said his trust in the government was lost.

'They still could not tell us how he was killed, when he was killed and by whom,' he said, adding that he believed his brother-in-law was beaten to death on his way home after work. His body was found near Erdaoqiao - one of the worst-hit areas in Sunday's riots where Han Chinese were chased and attacked by some Uygurs.

'We are thinking about moving away from this place, our hatred towards the Uygurs will last for generations,' he said.

'You will never understand this,' he said as a heavily pregnant woman from another family came out from the funeral home wailing over the death of her husband.