Teams of police armed with guns and batons patrolled streets in the western region of Xinjiang on Sunday, part of stringent security precautions put in place ahead of the one-year anniversary of China's worst ethnic violence in decades.
Though visitors were able to travel freely in the traditionally Muslim region, their bags were checked at airports, train stations and bus stops, as well as government offices, said a receptionist surnamed Fang at the Yilong Hotel in the regional capital of Urumqi.
SWAT teams were patrolling the streets in groups of about 10, she said, many of them armed.
Long-standing tensions between Xinjiang's minority Uighurs and majority Han Chinese migrants flared into open violence in Urumqi one year ago. The government said 197 people were killed in the unrest, which was triggered by the deaths of Uighur (pronounced WEE-gur) factory workers in the country's south.
After the July 5 bloodshed, the government suspended the region's Internet and international telephone and text messaging links for more than half a year. Beijing - which accused overseas Uighur groups of plotting the violence, something they deny - arrested hundreds of and sentenced about two dozen to death.