Repercussions of Urumqi Violence Felt Online and on the Ground

The repercussions of the violence in Urumqi last month continue to be felt far and wide, from the Internet to China’s political elite. Hackers on both sides of the issue have been battling online in the past few weeks, PCWorld reports:

Pro-China and pro-Muslim hackers have clashed online in a series of attacks on Web sites triggered by deadly ethnic riots in China’s Muslim region last month.

Messages left on defaced Web sites have either supported or condemned China’s rule over Xinjiang, the western province where rioting killed nearly 200 people. Chinese government Web sites have become the latest targets, adding to online attacks against an Australian film festival and a Turkish government site.

Meanwhile, in Xinjiang, the local head of the armed police, who put down the violence, has been promoted, according to AFP:

Dai Sujun, 54, who was appointed head of the Xinjiang armed police force in November 2008, was Wednesday promoted to deputy chief of the general staff of the national armed police on the orders of the State Council (China’s cabinet) and the central military commission, China New Service said.

Dai’s deputy Qi Baowen, 55, takes over his former post.

Xinjiang communist party secretary Wang Lequan said “the Xinjiang armed police force shoulders a sacred mission of maintaining social stability”, China News Service reported.

“(We) must fully realise the current situation and keep a clear political mind, firmly overcome the decline in alertness … and continue to battle, make full efforts to accomplish the work of maintaining stability,” Wang told the conference in Urumqi where the promotions were announced.

As part of that battle, authorities are still focused on an alleged terrorist threat, following a mysterious incident in which a plane from Afghanistan was not allowed to land. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Authorities have offered no clear explanation of why the Boeing 767 carrying 168 passengers was denied permission to land in Urumqi, the city that erupted in ethnic rioting on July 5 killing nearly 200 people. No bomb was discovered, and the Afghan-operated plane successfully flew the same route on Monday.

With tensions still running high in Urumqi, the incident is a reminder of what China calls the threat of terrorism from groups like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. In 2002, the US State Department listed ETIM as a terrorist organization after China blamed it for scores of violent attacks in the previous decade.

But China’s eagerness to label any opposition group in the traditionally Muslim province as separatists or terrorists – the words are used interchangeably – has muddied the picture. Foreign experts are doubtful that ETIM or other groups are capable of mounting terror attacks and argue that most antigovernment violence is haphazard.

August 14, 2009 4:39 PM
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Categories: Politics, Society