156 people are confirmed dead and 800 injured following riots in western China.

The violence in the regional capital Urumqi involved thousands of people and triggered an enormous security crackdown across Xinjiang, where tensions have long simmered amid Uighur claims of repressive Chinese rule.

The protest was triggered by a dispute between Han Chinese and Uighurs at a toy factory in southern China which left two Uighurs dead.

That anger erupted into violence as police arrested Uighurs converging on Urumqi's People's Square to protest.

Chinese authorities have blamed ethnic Uighur Muslims for orchestrating the violence, but exiled Uighur groups accused Chinese security forces, saying they had over-reacted to peaceful protests.

Rioters torched cars and buses, smashed windows and attacked passers-by as armoured vehicles and military trucks rolled in to restore order in Urumqi.

Independent information about the riots has been difficult to obtain, with snippets being posted on Twitter, YouTube and other Internet forums.

Communist authorities have since raced to stamp out video, images and words posted about yesterday's unrest.

According to AFP, Twitter and YouTube are currently blocked, while leading Chinese search engines will not give results for 'Urumqi' -the city in Xinjiang where the riots occurred.

Traditional press has only carried the official version of events, which blamed the unrest on ethnic Muslim Uighurs.

Many of Xinjiang's roughly eight million Uighurs say they have suffered political, cultural and religious persecution.

As in Tibet, they also complain about Han Chinese moving into Xinjiang and dominating economic and political life.

Xinjiang is a rugged region of vast deserts and mountains that borders central Asia, and the Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking people who have closer cultural links to their regional neighbours than the Han Chinese.

This year marks 60 years since communist Chinese troops entered Xinjiang and 'peacefully liberated' the region - advocates of independence say the move was an invasion.