Unrest In Xinjiang Incites Military Crackdown

The BBC reports that following days of unrest in the Xinjiang region that included an attack on a police station in Hotan on Friday, Chinese officials have increased operations by enacting a twenty-four hour patrol of the region, shutting down sections of Urumqi, and patrolling the area with military tanks. The Global Times estimates that 24 people were killed in Friday’s attack and that police cars were set one fire with 21 police officers injured. From the BBC:

State-run media reported that more than 100 people riding motorcycles, some wielding knives, attacked a police station in remote Hotan on Friday.

It follows Wednesday’s clashes elsewhere in Xinjiang which killed 35.

At a meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping, China’s leaders resolved to crack down on those responsible for the violence.

Senior Communist Party official Yu Zhengsheng said China “would strike hard on violent terrorist attacks,” according to state-run Xinhua. [Source]

The latest unrest marks the anniversary of the July 2009 riots in Urumqi and echoes the ongoing struggles between the Muslim ethnic Uyghurs and the Han Chinese.  Chris Buckley of The New York Times reports:

China’s Communist Party leadership has demanded an unyielding security response in Xinjiang after two violent clashes with Uighurs, on Wednesday and Friday. Those episodes have kindled fears of a repeat of the events of July 5, 2009, when protests in Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi, grew into street attacks that left at least 197 residents dead, many of them Han Chinese, by far the country’s biggest ethnic group. [Source]

The Globe and Mail reports that the total death toll of riots last Wednesday in Turpan Prefecture may have now climbed to almost fifty and that the police report blamed a radical terrorist group for the attack:

In Wednesday’s incident, assailants attacked police and government offices in the town of Lukqun in the region’s usually quiet east in one of the bloodiest incidents since the 2009 Urumqi rampage. Authorities searching for suspects have sealed off the area. Other independent reports put the death toll as high as 46.

According to a police statement posted on the Xinjiang government’s official website, the attackers belonged to a 17-member extremist Islamic cell formed in January by a man identified by the Chinese pronunciation of his Uighur name, Aihemaitiniyazi Sidike.

The statement said the cell regularly listened to recordings promoting violence and terrorism and since mid-June had been raising funds, buying knives and gasoline, and casing various sites in preparation for an attack. [Source]

Global Times reports that all the alleged assailants in the Lukqun attack have been apprehended. Another Global Times article directly links the assailants with terrorist groups operating in Syria. From Reuters:

The Global Times, a tabloid owned by the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said that some members of the “East Turkestan” faction had moved from Turkey into Syria.

“This Global Times reporter has recently exclusively learned from the Chinese anti-terrorism authorities that since 2012, some members of the ‘East Turkestan’ faction have entered Syria from Turkey, participated in extremist, religious and terrorist organizations within the Syrian opposition forces and fought with the Syrian army,” the newspaper said.

“At the same time, these elements from ‘East Turkestan’ have identified candidates to sneak in to Chinese territory to plan and execute terrorist attacks.” [Source]

The New York Times adds that critics and human rights advocates will cast a doubtful eye on government-backed reports describing these incidents and their perpetrators.

Read more about Xinjiang via CDT.