Reporting from Beijing — At least four people were killed Monday when police and protesters clashed in China's restive Xinjiang region, the official New China News Agency said.
Security forces in the western frontier city of Hotan opened fire on a crowd after people attacked a police station, set it on fire and took hostages, the report said.
One police official, a security guard and two hostages were killed in the incident.
Dilxat Raxit of the exile group World Uyghur Congress told Reuters news service that police opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, which sparked the fighting.
"The people cannot stand the government's repression any longer," he told the news agency.
Simmering tension between the Han, China's dominant ethnic group, and Xinjiang's native Uighur minority, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people, has led to violent clashes in the past. Nearly 200 people were killed in riots in 2009.
Since then, authorities have blanketed the region with security forces and periodically arrested residents suspected of advocating a separatist movement in Xinjiang.
Amnesty International has accused the Chinese police of using mass arrests, enforced disappearances and torture in detention to pacify the Uighur community.