This New York Times report drips with skepticism, what with its scare quotes around “terrorism,” as if it were inconceivable that China could actually be facing any real trouble in Xinjiang, much less jihad and Islamic supremacism. The Times’s repeated references to “state-run” Chinese media are ironic in light of the fact that the Gray Lady is no less state-run media, or at very least a voluntary mouthpiece for the establishment line, than is the Tianshen news portal. “Explosions and Police Clashes Leave Dozen Dead in Western China,” by Andrew Jacobs for the New York Times, January 25 (thanks to Bill):
BEIJING — A series of explosions and police gunfire have left a dozen people dead in China’s far west Xinjiang region, the latest spasm of violence to shake the vast, strategically vital area that borders several Central Asian countries.
Details of the incident remain murky, but a local government website said on Saturday that the dead included six people gunned down by police Friday evening and another six killed by three explosions in and around a hair salon and vegetable market in Aksu Prefecture.
Another account, posted on the state-run Tianshan news portal, said one explosion occurred after the police “besieged” what was described as a suspicious vehicle. Two of the dead had been sitting inside the vehicle, the report said. The authorities arrested three people and several others were injured, including a police officer.
The clash, which took place in the county seat of Xinhe, not far from the border with Kyrgyzstan, is the latest in a spate of violence in Xinjiang, home to most of China’s 10 million ethnic Uighurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people whose uneasy relationship with the region’s Han Chinese majority has turned increasingly bloody.
Reports in the state-run media did not list the names or ethnicities of those involved in the violence, but such episodes invariably pit Uighurs against Chinese security forces. Over the past two months, at least three dozen Uighurs in southern Xinjiang have been shot dead by police, including three young men gunned down Jan. 15 outside a police station in Yengieriq, another town in Aksu Prefecture.
In that incident, security agents opened fire after the men had been denied entry to a local police station, according to Radio Free Asia. The report quoted local police officials as saying the men were carrying sickles and described them as “separatists.”
In December, the state media said that police in the Silk Road city of Kashgar shot and killed eight people who had attacked a police vehicle with knives and “explosive devices.” Two weeks earlier, another clash in Kashgar left 16 people dead, including six women and two police officers. As with similar incidents, officials described bloodshed as an act of “terrorism.” An exile group, the World Uyghur Congress, said it was an “indiscriminate shooting” by security forces on members of a wedding party. The government blocks independent reporting in the region, making it difficult to learn more details about such clashes.
Over the past year, violent confrontations have been occurring with growing frequency, alarming Chinese leaders and prompting even heavier security in the energy-rich region. Last week Beijing announced that it was doubling Xinjiang’s public security budget, with one regional official vowing “no mercy for terrorists,” according to the state media.
Officials invariably blame the bloodshed on “separatists” seeking to establish an independent homeland for Xinjiang’s Uighurs, whose loyalties to Beijing have been tested by increasingly aggressive government policies. Exile groups and analysts outside China say the discontent is aggravated by intrusive measures, including restrictions on religious practices, as well as uneven economic development that favors ethnic Han Chinese migrants over native Uighurs.
Groups like the World Uyghur Congress attribute many recent Uighur deaths to aggressive policing tactics, and say that many “terrorists” killed by police gunfire were later described as carrying knives or farm implements.