At least 20 people have been killed in violent attacks in China’s ethnically fractious region of Xinjiang, according to reports.
Although there are no official reports about what triggered the violence, there is speculation that the most recent riot was a result of allegations of discrimination and marginalization of Uighurs. China also has claimed that it faces the threat of organized terror by radical Muslim groups in Xinjiang.
The violence in Yechang — called Kargilik by Uyghurs — broke out because locals “could no longer bear China’s systematic repression,” said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress:
He said local Uighurs told him seven armed Chinese security personnel were killed and that three people were shot to death. He said two more people were killed but did not provide any detail of those deaths. He said 10 people were injured, including two seriously hurt, and that police have detained 84 people. Police have sealed off the area, he said.
The government has failed to win over Uighurs and other ethnic minorities through policies to boost economic growth and incomes as it increases police presence and controls religious practices to deter displays of separatism. China’s ethnic Tibetan regions have also been unsettled in recent months by scattered demonstrations and clashes with authorities, as well as self-immolations in protest against the government’s policies.
Censors blocked postings about the attack on microblogs. Searches on Sina Corporation‘s popular Weibo service returned the message: “In accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies, ‘Xinjiang Yecheng’ search results were not shown.”
China Digital Times adds:
No details were given about what might have set off the violence, although Xinjiang see periodic outbreaks of anti-government violence by restless members of the region’s native Turkish Muslim Uighur ethnic group.
The Xinhua News Agency said rioters armed with knives attacked victims in Yecheng county outside the city starting overnight. They killed 10 people and police shot and killed two assailants, the report said. Xinhua said police were chasing others involved in the attacks but did not say how many suspects there were.
The report could not be independently confirmed. Chinese authorities maintain tight control over information and the circumstances surrounding such incidents are often murky. Reports of violence in the region are not new, as there have been persistent reports of outbreaks of violence. The Guardian adds:
Censors have begun blocking internet searches for Yecheng and Kashgar. Searches for both Yecheng county and Kashgar on the news service Sina’s Weibo microblog brought only a message saying results could not be shown due to regulations.
Microbloggers have often been quick to spread eye-witness accounts of disasters, accidents and other politically-sensitive events.
Almost 200 people died, mostly thought to be from China’s majority Han Chinese ethnic group, and 1,700 were injured when riots erupted in Urumqi in July 2009. Fighting broke out between Uighurs and migrant Han workers and buses were overturned and set on fire. Vicious assaults on Han were followed by revenge attacks on Uighurs.
Southern Xinjiang saw three outbreaks of violence in July 2011, according to state media. A group of Uighurs was said to have stormed a police station in Hotan, taking hostages and killing four. On 30 and 31 July, another Uighur group in Kashgar hijacked a truck, set a restaurant on fire and stabbed people in the street, state media reported. Chinese authorities say police shot 14 attackers in Hotan and five in Kashgar, but exile groups have disputed those accounts.