Local authorities in Xinjiang have confirmed that police on Friday fired at up to 400 ethnic Uyghurs protesting the arrest of a young religious leader and closure of a mosque near the town of Hotan, according to Radio Free Asia:
The move to beef up security followed a meeting of the ruling Chinese Communist Party chaired by President Xi Jinping, indicating concerns among the top leadership over the rising violence in Xinjiang ahead of the anniversary of the July 5, 2009 riots in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi which left nearly 200 dead.
“Yes, a terrible tragedy happened in Hanerik,” Chairman of Hotan county’s People’s Congress Abdulhekim Weliyop told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
“There are deaths and injuries, but I don’t know the exact number. Police officers will send us the reports soon,” he said on Saturday, adding that the recent spate of attacks by Uyghurs in Xinjiang had stemmed from “radicalism.” [Source]
The Associated Press also reported that Xinjiang’s public security bureau ordered police to confiscate long knives, explosives, guns, as well as electronic equipment containing “terrorist” material:
Police also are offering rewards of up to $16,300 for information on terrorist activity that helps solve major terror crimes or leads to the arrest of terror suspects.
It says those who knowingly shelter, protect or help “violent terrorist criminals” will be prosecuted. [Source]
Days of unrest in Hotan and other parts of Xinjiang, which coincided with the anniversary of the July 2009 riots in Urumqi, prompted Chinese officials to order a 24-hour military patrol in some parts of the region over the weekend. China has often linked violence on its western frontier to religious extremists, but Reuters reports that on Monday state media engaged in “unusually specific finger pointing” by blaming the latest violence on fanatics trained by Syrian opposition forces:
This appears to mark the first time Beijing has blamed a group in Syria and fits a common narrative of the government portraying Xinjiang’s violence as coming from abroad, such as Pakistan, and not due to homegrown anger.
[…] 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 against the Syrian army,” the newspaper said. [Source]