News / Asia

China Appeals for International Support in 'War Against Terrorism'

Policemen and paramilitary policemen patrol a street near the Kunming Railway Station, March 3, 2014.
Policemen and paramilitary policemen patrol a street near the Kunming Railway Station, March 3, 2014.
VOA News
China is appealing to the international community for "more understanding and support" in what it describes as its fight against terrorism.

The appeal came after masked attackers armed with swords killed 29 people and injured 130 more at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming.

Fu Ying, a spokeswoman for the National People's Congress, which opens Wednesday amid heavy security in Beijing, made clear that China expectated support.

"Terrorism does not have national boundaries. We wish and expect that our efforts to crack down on terrorism will gain international understanding and support in the future," said Fu.

Beijing has blamed the attack on militants from the northwest region, Xinjiang, where the mainly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority complains of repression by the government.

Unrest involving Uighurs is not uncommon in Xinjiang. The government has for years quickly labeled any such violence - even street riots or shootouts during police raids - as terrorist attacks.

This tendency, along with Chinese government opacity, has led many to be skeptical about such labels. Gardner Bovingdon, a China ethnic minorities analyst with Indiana University, told VOA he is worried about a "rush to judgment" in the Kunming case.
 
"I think we should all withhold judgment until there is more information forthcoming," he said. "There have only been a small number of violent attacks that I think can legitimately be called 'terrorist' that have been attributed to Uighurs in organizations."
 
Bovingdon told VOA the only other recent attack that may fall under such a category is the October incident in Tiananmen Square. In that incident, two bystanders were killed when a car plowed through a group of people and burst into flames.
 
Chinese authorities blamed both the Tiananmen Square car crash and the Kunming sword attack on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, a shadowy group said to be fighting for independence in Xinjiang.
 
Washington officially recognizes ETIM as a terrorist organization, but has been reluctant to acknowledge ETIM's involvement in the Chinese attacks or even to call the incidents themselves "terrorism."
 
After days of protests in Chinese state media about alleged double standards, the U.S. State Department did acknowledge Monday the Kunming case "appears to be an act of terrorism," since it targeted random members of the public.
 
In the aftermath of the attack, Chinese authorities vowed to take firm action to root out terrorist organizations in order to "safeguard national stability," leading some to fear even more widespread restrictions on Uighurs.
 
James Leibold, a Beijing-based ethnic minorities expert from Australia's LaTrobe University, told VOA that a widening crackdown could push Uighurs in Xinjiang "even further into desperation."
 
"They're a group that's very marginalized within Xinjiang society and the penetration of the state deeper and deeper into their lives sometimes leads them to do acts like may have occurred in Kunming," sad Leibold.
 
For now, it remains unclear why anyone would feel the need to carry out such a brutal attack on innocent bystanders, and why they felt the need to do it in Kunming - more than 1,500 kilometers from Xinjiang.

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