News / Asia

China’s Xinjiang Violence Highlights Tensions with Uighurs

In this August 2, 2011 photo, a policeman patrols near the site of an attack in Kashgar in China's far western Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region.
In this August 2, 2011 photo, a policeman patrols near the site of an attack in Kashgar in China's far western Xinjiang Uigur Autonomous Region.
VOA News
Deadly clashes this week in China’s western province Xinjiang that killed 21 people have again drawn attention to the long-running tensions between the predominantly Muslim Uighur community and the Han Chinese majority.
 
Officials say Tuesday’s incident began in a rural town near Kashgar, when a group of social workers and police visited a home allegedly occupied by a gang of thugs. After authorities found weapons stashed inside, they say the home’s occupants set their house on fire and attacked.
 
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Chinese officials called the incident a premeditated terrorist act.  State media outlets portrayed the assailants as separatist extremists.
 
But Ilham Tohti, a Uighur scholar at the Beijing-based Minzu University, is doubtful of the official version, calling it unlikely that a group of terrorists would hide together in their own home.
 
Xinjiang authorities have had a very poor record in similar situations, with limited information provided about what really happened, Tohti said.  
 
U.S. officials called for a transparent investigation and expressed concern about reports of discrimination of Uighurs and other Muslims in China.
 
Uighur rights groups in exile say the incident is more likely related to the struggle of the nine-million-strong Uighur minority in Xinjiang against a regime they deem oppressive.
 
In recent decades the region has seen an influx of Han Chinese, brought to the resource-rich province by a central government scheme that encourages investment and development.
 
Resentment over economic discrimination and cultural repression peaked in 2009 when violent riots in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi left 200 people dead and triggered an increase in security forces and surveillance. Since then, there have been only sporadic episodes of violence.

According to Tohti, although many Uighurs in Xinjiang do not dare protest against Chinese rule out of fear, the majority of them chafe at the policies of local authorities.
 
This silence does not mean that they agree with local authorities, he said, adding that now many are speaking out.
 
Linking al-Qaida affiliates
 
Although no group has formally been accused for Tuesday's attack, previous incidents in the region have been ascribed to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an al-Qaida affiliated group accused of fomenting separatist actions among Uighur communities in Central Asia.
 
Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, believes that the latest incident in Xinjiang was in fact an act of terrorism and said the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and al-Qaida have worked together against China in the past.
 
They already attempted a number of attacks during the Beijing Olympics, he said.  Since then they have been recruiting and training a very small, but significant, number of Uighurs on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
 
In March, China sentenced 20 men on charges of terrorism and inciting secession in Xinjiang. According to the court, some of the men had plotted to kill local policemen, and had been distributing propaganda material related to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
 
Raffaello Pantucci, Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said there is almost no tangible evidence that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and al-Qaida are working together to strike China.
 
Pantucci said although some Uighur organizations exist in Pakistan's tribal areas, China has been effective in preventing them from crossing over to neighboring Xinjiang.  Pantucci added those who are launching attacks appear to be more domestically radicalized.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Wangchuk from: NY
April 26, 2013 10:10 AM
The tension in Xinjiang is due to the Chinese occupation of East Turkestan which was independent in 1949. Since then the CCP has colonized this territory & treated Uighurs as 2d class citizens & discriminated against them. Uighurs were the vast majority in 1949 but due to Chinese resettlement projects, they are now less than 50%. China gave Uighur land to ex-PLA soldiers to farm.

There's a huge economic disparity between Uighurs and Chinese in Xinjiang and the Chinese police harass & persecute Uighurs for their political & religious views. Amnesty Int'l & Human Rights Watch have condemned the PRC's human rights violations in Xinjiang. The PRC uses the excuse of terrorism to deny Uighurs their basic civil rights. As long as the PRC treats Xinjiang as a colony & mistreats Uighurs, there will be strife in that land.

by: believe what you see
April 26, 2013 8:17 AM
I grew up in Xingjiang province. I saw friendship between Han and Uighur since girlhood. Some Han and Uighur can even speak two languages. We sharing each cultural gifts, foods and weddings. And we even learned and still remembered some polite uighur words in middle school, for example, thanks, pls sit, bye bye in Uighur words. My mother worked in a professional college, teaching plant genetics. A young Uighur teacher comes home often, sharing the teaching experience together.

And we sometimes visited their fruit yard, enjoying the delicious fruits, which is part of my wonderful memory. And I still remembered an uncle who was deputy mayor of a county. He said when Han people killed a person, this will be sentenced quickly; but when minority people killed a young kid and his old grandpa, the county court and mayor dare not decide the sentence, waited for the supervisor to decide a year later. Now I already left Xinjiang and I felt so sorry for those terrible killings in 2009. I hate those ones who used innocent lives to win their political purpose. We have peaceful life and friendship, who has time and money to break them??

by: Batur from: Mongolia
April 26, 2013 2:43 AM
VOA comment blog should not offer free space for those Chinese who are writing here on behalf of Chinese secret services !

by: Job from: Sichuan
April 26, 2013 12:12 AM
VOA Shame on you! I am a student from a Minzu university. And I am Minority.If you don't know truth,don't misleading people.

by: li from: beijing
April 25, 2013 8:16 PM
I can not understand why VOA hold a dual criteria on terrorist attack took place in US and China? That bias attitude hurt Chinese feeling severely, and also the credibility of VOA.

by: Sebastian V. from: USA
April 25, 2013 4:40 PM
My tax dollars for VOA is definitely worthwhile. Hope people do a bit more research... and see the differences...

by: Aeris from: Henan
April 25, 2013 3:38 PM
Ilham Tohti, a Uighur scholar at the Beijing-based Minzu University

The description of this kind made me confused and so I asked my friend in Minzu University of China, her answer "the scholar is neither a professor nor a teacher of the university, simply a graduate, now banished by government for crimes" LOL

VOA. You could turn a terrorist act into a clash, good enough

by: ChasL from: Seattle
April 25, 2013 12:39 PM
Should the Chinese say "tension" wrt Boston bombing? Does anything excuse violence like this anywhere?

I can't believe my tax dollar is funding VOA propaganda like this. Shame on you.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs