Police Confirm Attacks in Korla, Xinjiang (Updated)

Rumors circulated on Weibo this week about an attack by one or more Uyghurs on Han Chinese in Korla, Xinjiang. Local police have now confirmed an attack but few details are available, Radio Free Asia reports (See Update below):

Police said a security clampdown had been imposed following clashes in Korla city in central Xinjiang, confirming an undetermined number of fatalities.

An officer who answered the phone at the municipal police incident room confirmed reports of the killings, which initially appeared on China’s Twitter-like social media platforms.

He indicated that one or more Uyghurs had attacked Han Chinese but declined to give details of casualties or the current police operation.

[…]

Asked to confirm reports of a security clampdown, the officer said, “That’s right,” adding that the measures were city-wide.

Charges of “endangering state security” are frequently used against ethnic Uyghurs who “assert their cultural identity through speech, association, and assembly,” according to the San Francisco-based Duihua Foundation. Duihua recently found that 50% of the country’s state security trials were held in Xinjiang, which is home to less than two percent of the total population:

With a level of transparency not afforded by other jurisdictions, the high court of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region discloses annually the number of endangering state security (ESS) trials in the region. In 2012, 314 ESS trials of first and second instance were concluded, down 24 percent year-on-year. The decline is no cause for celebration, however, since, according to Xinjiang Party Secretary Zhang Chunxian, “the struggle between splittist and anti-splittist forces in Xinjiang [is] long-term, complicated, and intense.”

[…]

Underscoring the government’s hardline approach, Dui Hua’s analysis of official data reveals a disturbing trend: between 2008 and 2010, Xinjiang, which accounts for less than 2 percent of China’s population, accounted for 50 percent of the nation’s first-instance ESS trials. Given that splittism is the focus of stability maintenance in the region, the great majority of defendants in these trials is almost certain to be Uyghur.

In Beijing, at the National People’s Congress session, Xinjiang’s Party chief, spoke about the tensions and periodic violent flare-ups in the region and linked the situation to uprisings in Arab countries and Eastern Europe. From People’s Daily:

Zhang Chunxian, who is attending an annual session of the country’s top legislature in Beijing, told reporters after a panel discussion, “Although the situation remains tough, the overall stability in Xinjiang is improving and under control.”

Zhang said Xinjiang should contain, resist and prevent the “three evil forces” of separatism, extremism and terrorism step by step in a historical way.

He said the “three evil forces” are closely linked with and affected by the international environment such as the 2004 “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine and the Jasmine Revolutions that swept some Arab countries.

In another article, a Xinjiang official blamed Internet rumors for flaming ethnic tensions, mentioning a dispute between a Han customer and a Uyghur nut cake peddler last year:

Some commercial disputes involving Xinjiang people are just ordinary incidents that have been dealt with according to regulations but were later exaggerated, said Nur Bekri, chairman of the region.

Last year, police in the city of Yueyang, Hunan province, reported a dispute between vendors from Xinjiang and a customer over the price of sliced cake that ended in a brawl. Many netizens were surprised about the sky-high price and said they have been cheated by Xinjiang vendors selling such cakes.

Nur said some incidents involving Xinjiang people have faced vicious speculation on the Internet, and the hard-working, kind people of Xinjiang have been defamed by people who might have ulterior motives. The intention of such comments is to damage the relationship between people from different ethnic groups.

“It shows that some people lack an understanding of Xinjiang,” he said.

UPDATE (March 7, 2013 10:00 PM PST):

Radio Free Asia updated their story with more details about how the attack began:

According to accounts from people working near the scene and from netizens, several people including both Uyghurs and Han Chinese were killed and more injured after a fight broke out in a video game arcade in the city’s Golden Triangle commercial district.

And the South China Morning Post reports four people were killed:

At least four people were killed and eight others were injured in a knife attack in central Xinjiang yesterday, according to witnesses and a spokeswoman for the restive autonomous region.

Police in Korla arrested one suspect involved in the attack, Xinjiang’s publicity chief, Hou Hanmin , told the South China Morning Post, but she failed to confirm the identities of the suspect and victims.

She confirmed the casualty count and said the attack took place around 3pm when a man wielding a small knife “attacked people in downtown Korla”.

March 7, 2013 12:55 PM
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Categories: Law, Politics, Society