China: more terror and repression in Xinjiang

Chinese police shot and killed five people who hurled homemade bombs at a police station and the office of industry and commerce in Kucha, Xinjiang, early Aug. 10. Two police officers and a security guard were reportedly wounded in the attacks. The oasis city is on the northern rim of the Taklimakan Desert, about halfway between Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi and Kashgar, where a deadly attack took place last week. (WP, Aug. 10)

The separatist Turkestan Islamic Party days earlier issued a new videotape calling for local Uighurs to avoid planes, buses and trains during the Olympics. Chinese authorities say the group is based in Pakistan, where Uighur militantss are said to maintain training camps. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant groups, said the six-minute video was in the Turkic language spoken by Uighurs. “Choose your side,” said a masked rifle-wielding man on the video. “Do not stay on the same bus, on the same train, on the same plane, in the same buildings or any place the Chinese are.”

Uighurs outside China have been taking the opportunity of the Beijing Olympics to launch protests. In Turkey, a Uighur man doused himself in petrol outside the Chinese embassy in Ankara and set himself on fire. Mehmet Dursun Uygurturkoglu, 35, was rushed to hospital where he was treated for second-degree burns.

On Aug. 8, an anonymous bomb threat to Air China’s Toyko office forced a passenger jet to make an emergency return to Japan. There was no claim that Uighur militants were behind the attack. The tension resulted in heightened security measures in Xinjiang, with police shutting down the bazaar in Urumqi. Check points on every major road in the province has resulted in long queues. (The Telegraph, Aug. 8)

Chinese police have arrested 82 individuals for allegedly plotting an attack at the Games, and the Chinese government publicly executed three accused militants. Police have also conducted house-to-house searches around Gulja (Yining in Chinese), a center for opposition to Chinese rule. Police denied that they were targeting any specific population, just “specific areas,” an officer told Radio Free Asia. (ABC News, Aug. 4)

Gulja was the scene of a Feb. 5, 1997 massacre, when Chinese security forces opened fire on Uighur protesters, leaving hundreds dead. The facts surrounding the massacre are online at Gulja Vigil.

Two months ago, we asked: “Will Tibet explode again during the Beijing Olympics?” It seems instead it may be Xinjiang. There are two weeks of the Olympic Games to go. Stay tuned…

See our last post on China and the Uighurs.