China police hold man over ethnic brawl-report

BEIJING, June 29 (Reuters) - Police in southern China have detained a man accused of spreading false rumours of rape over the Internet that sparked a deadly ethnic brawl at a toy factory on the weekend.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported late on Sunday that the man, a former worker at the Xuri or "Early Light" toy factory in Shaoguan city, Guangdong province, posted a message on a local website claiming, "Six Xinjiang boys raped two innocent girls" at the factory.

Police said the unfounded claim was behind the massive Friday night brawl between a group of Han Chinese and Uighur workers from China's northwestern Xinjiang region who had been recently recruited to the factory.

The brawl was an outburst of long-standing tensions between Han Chinese and Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group with a language and culture close to the Turkic peoples of central Asia. In the fighting, two workers from Xinjiang were killed and 118 people were injured, Xinhua reported.

The man, surnamed Zhu, "faked the information to express his discontent" over failing to find new work after quitting his job at the factory, said Xinhua. The brief report did not say what crime he has been accused of.

The violence lasted until the early hours of Friday morning and 14 were critically injured.

About 400 riot police had to be deployed to quell the unrest as the rival workers battled, some wielding knives and metal pipes, Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper reported on Saturday.

Many Uighurs resent Han Chinese rule, complaining they're marginalised economically and politically in their own land, while having to tolerate a rising influx of Han Chinese migrants. (Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Valerie Lee)