According to state media reports, Chinese police shot dead two Uyghurs who were part of a group attempting to flee into Vietnam on January 18. At the New York Times, Chris Buckley reports:
The shooting broke out near an expressway tollgate in the Guangxi region of southern China on Sunday night, when the police tried to stop a van carrying five Uighurs, according to the China News Service and China Daily. The van refused to stop at a roadblock of two police cars near Pingxiang, a small city near the border with Vietnam, and members of the group “resisted arrest and attacked the police with knives,” China Daily said.
“The police finally shot dead two of them,” and captured two others on the spot, the China News Service reported. One member of the group escaped and was caught by the police on a hillside on Monday evening, other Chinese news reports said, citing local public security officials.
Uighurs are a largely Muslim ethnic minority who live in the Xinjiang region of northwest China, which has been beset by deepening violence and tensions with the government and China’s Han ethnic majority. The shootings appeared to be part of the government’s efforts to eradicate gangs involved in illegally spiriting people, especially Uighurs, across the border into Southeast Asia, and onward from there. [Source]
This news came after China’s Ministry of Public Security announced that it had apprehended over 800 people during the past year in effort to restrict illegal emigration into Southeast Asia. The South China Morning Post’s Angela Meng reports on Beijing’s claim that most of the attempted emigres had been trying to reach jihad training camps, and describes the regional border security operation set up by the Ministry of Public Security:
Police said most of the cases were spurred on by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is spreading extremist religious views and provoking people to leave the country and participate in jihad, Xinhua reported.
Most of those caught trying to sneak out of the country had watched underground terror videos or had even engaged in “terrorist” activities, killing people before leaving the country, Xinhua said.
[…] “The security apparatus has been on high alert since the attacks on Tiananmen Square and in Kunming last year,” said Li Wei, director of the anti-terrorism research centre at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
“Chinese citizens are being lured by extremists just like those from the West.”
[…] Dilxat Rexit, spokesman for the World Uygur Congress, said Uygurs were leaving China due to government oppression, not because they wanted to join terrorists abroad. [Source]
Amid authorities controversial crackdown on terrorism in Xinjiang, official media have continually alleged a tie between recent violence in the region and the global jihad movement.
Last week, 10 Turkish nationals were detained in Shanghai for allegedly providing Uyghurs altered Turkish passports to aid in their illegal emigration; the Uyghurs were also reportedly arrested.
Also see Human Rights Watch’s recently stated concerns that China’s draft counter-terrorism law could legitimate and facilitate human rights abuses.