KASHGAR, China (AFP) - Chinese officials Friday ordered foreign media to leave the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, citing safety concerns, after deadly unrest in other parts of China's remote northwest.
"All foreign journalists should leave for their own safety," Chen Li, a press official with the Kashgar government, told AFP.
An AFP reporter and photographer were among the small foreign media contingent who travelled to Kashgar following ethnic unrest about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) away in Xinjiang region's capital, Urumqi.
Chinese authorities say 156 people were killed and more than 1,000 others injured on Sunday after Uighurs took to the street in protest.
Authorities blamed Uighurs for "rioting", although exiled Uighur leaders say security forces used disproportionate force in their clampdown and that hundreds of Uighurs may have died.
The AFP reporter and photgrapher had early Friday sought to report from Kashgar's main Id Kah mosque, but police ordered them away and took them back to their hotel. The government order to leave the city came afterwards.
The ban on foreign journalists in Kashgar is in contrast to the access allowed in Urumqi in what China has described as part of a greater openness.
Unlike for other sensitive news stories in China such as unrest in Tibet last year, foreign reporters have been allowed into Urumqi and given freedom to interview people on both sides of the ethnic unrest.