The official account of the violence at a police station in Hotan, Xinjiang now says that eighteen people, including fourteen “rioters” were killed in a clash between protesters and police. The Chinese government has blamed the violence on organized terrorists while Uighur activists have said members of their ethnic group were protesting unfair treatment. From Reuters:
The exile group had said 20 Uighurs were killed — 14 beaten to death and 6 shot dead — and 70 arrested, when police opened fire on protesters, leading to fighting between the two sides.
The Xinjiang government’s website (www.xinjiang.gov.cn) said that police fatally shot the 14 rioters after giving “legal education and warnings,” adding that 18 rioters had bought and made weapons and sneaked into the desert city of Hotan days before the clash on Monday.
The report said the rioters, armed with axes, knives, daggers, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices, “crazily beat, smashed and set on fire” the police station, and hung “flags of extreme religion” on the top of the station.
State media variously have blamed terrorists, rioters or thugs for Monday’s violence in the Xinjiang region. An exile group that advocates for greater Uighur autonomy instead has said a peaceful protest turned into a bloody clash between police and demonstrators.
Xinjiang has been beset by ethnic conflict and a sometimes-violent separatist movement by Uighurs (pronounced WEE’-gurs), a largely Muslim ethnic group that sees Xinjiang as its homeland. Many Uighurs resent the Han Chinese majority as interlopers.
A group of “religious extremists” opposed to the Chinese government arrived two days earlier in Hotan and organized the terror attack in the city, a Xinjiang regional government spokeswoman told The Associated Press.
“They arrived in groups on the 16th with several dozen different knives including cleavers, axes and switchblades,” the spokeswoman, Hou Hanmin, said. “They also went to a local market to buy other knives and materials to make molotov cocktails and homemade bombs.”
According to reports from Xinhua, a group of “terrorists” attacked a police station in the city of Hotan in Xinjiang province on Monday and killed four people, including a paramilitary officer, a security guard, along with a woman and a teenage girl. Police soon retaliated and a gunfight erupted, killing between 14 to 20 people (China Daily puts the total shot at 14, Sina says 14 dead, while the Global Times says the casualty total was “unidentified”).
Exiled Uighur activists have said the protesters were unarmed and were gathering to ask the whereabouts of family members who had been detained earlier this year.