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).

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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs