China: crackdown in wake of Xinjiang attack

Attackers identified as two Uighur men killed 16 members of a special border police unit in Kashgar, Xinjiang, Aug. 4. The assailants crashed a dump truck and tossed two grenades as a group of 70 police were jogging past in their regular morning drill, then jumped out and attacked other officers with knives. Kashgar is an ancient Silk Road town near China’s border with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (and seat of the short-lived independent East Turkestan Islamic Republic, declared in 1933). The two assailants were arrested. (China Daily, Aug. 5; Radio Free Asia, BBC, Aug. 4)

Shi Dagang, the local Communist Party chief, described the attack as part of a long-planned campaign to turn 2008 into a “year of mourning” for the Olympic host nation. He named three organizations as likely behind the assault—the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the East Turkestan Liberation Organization and the East Turkestan Independent Movement.

Police have set up checkpoints around Kashgar, while riot troops ringed the hospital where the injured officers were being treated. Local residents told reporters they are facing extra identity-card checks and door-to-door inspections. The main bazaar was closed early, and traders forbidden from praying at their workplace. (The Guardian, Aug. 5)

There have been reports of Uighurs suspected of links to militant groups being detained ahead of Beijing’s Olympic Games. “The Chinese authorities have a right to protect the life and security of their law enforcement officials,” Amnesty International said in a statement after the Kashgar attack. “However, attacks such as these should not be used to justify the promotion or implementation of repressive or abusive security measures.”

Officials in Kashgar also apologized to two Japanese reporters who were detained and roughed up at the scene of the attack. The two reporters, one with Japan’s Chunichi newspaper and the other with Nippon Television Network, reportedly “clashed” with police when they tried to film. “Journalists are forbidden to enter the area controlled by border police, but the two disobeyed the rules,” Kashgar’s government spokesman, Eskar, said. “We are sorry for the incident and the damage to the equipment that belonged to the reporters.” (Bloomberg, Aug. 5)

See our last post on China and the Uighurs.