News / Asia

China Faces Ongoing Tension in Restive Xinjiang

Members of the Uyghur ethnic minority walk past a Muslim mosque near the Erduoqiao neighborhood in Urumqi in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, (File).
Members of the Uyghur ethnic minority walk past a Muslim mosque near the Erduoqiao neighborhood in Urumqi in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, (File).
TEXT SIZE - +

China’s far northwestern Xinjiang region is settled primarily by the Muslim Uighurs who have long chafed under Chinese rule. In recent years, there have been episodes of violence between locals and security forces, but who is at fault remains a matter of dispute.

At the end of December, the Chinese government reported a shootout in Xinjiang, in which eight people were killed.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei recounts the official version of events.

He says that it was a police operation, that led to the rescue of two herdsmen who had been kidnapped by a terrorist group that was headed to what Beijing said were “foreign jihad camps.”

The state-run Xinhua news agency says the confrontation involved a gang of 15 “violent terrorists”. Its reporting does not specify whether the terrorists were ethnic Uighur, a Muslim minority that makes up almost 90 percent of the population of Hotan county, where the conflict took place.

Apart from the eight deaths, four people were injured in the shootout, and four others detained. For Chinese authorities, the guilt of those involved is not in doubt.

Hong says that this was definitely an act of terrorism.

When there have been similar incidents in Xinjiang in the past, Uighur groups overseas have disputed China's version of events - and this time was no different.

Dilshat Rexit, spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, an exile group based in Munich, says that the 15 Uighurs in question were unhappy under Chinese rule and were trying to flee the country. He denies that the group had any link with terrorist organizations.

Rexit accuses the Chinese government of linking Uighur people with global terrorism as an excuse for what he describes as systematic suppression in Xinjiang.

Rexit says that many Uighurs are distressed by China's growing interference on the minority's cultural and religious activities, and that such policies are the main cause for the area's restiveness.

Earlier this year 18 Uighur men, who were opposed to a ban on Islamic women wearing a veil, attacked a Hotan police station with bombs and knives, killing two policemen and taking hostages.

Raffaello Pantucci is a Shanghai-based associate fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at London's Kings College.

He says despite differing interpretations of the most recent events in Hotan, one fact remains the same in both accounts.

“It seems clear that both of the stories agree that there were people leaving, people were trying to leave which suggests that there is some sort of tension that is obviously going on in the background,” noted Pantucci.

Pantucci acknowledges that there are small groups of extremist Uighurs who are reported to have posted threatening videos online, but he says he does not see an overall Uighur trend toward terrorism. At the same time, though, he warns that if the Chinese government's policies are too harsh, they may in fact push more Uighurs toward fundamentalism.

“By reacting to any expression of religion or religiosity as a manifestation of extremism that could lead to violence, you are potentially pushing individuals that might be finding religion as a greater solace into sort of more dangerous and violent direction,” Pantucci said.

Simmering ethnic tensions in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, erupted in July 2009. Uighurs were demonstrating against an ethnically-motivated killing at a factory in southern China. The protest turned violent, with Uighurs targeting residents of China's ethnic Han majority. About 200 people, mostly Han Chinese, were killed.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid