In China’s Xinjiang province the Silk Road city of Kashgar located near China’s borders with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan is again back in focus for all the wrong reasons.
Xinjiang has been witnessing ethnic unrest involving native Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighurs and the increasing influx of majority Han Chinese. Uighurs are also angered by what they see as heavy-handed rule from Beijing.
It is not the first time that China has faced violent extremism in Xinjiang.
In 2009 ethnic riots in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi involving Uighurs and Han Chinese killed about 200 people. China launched a major crackdown against Uyghur Muslim separatists. Tensions have been high in the region since then. The violence in Xinjiang prompted widespread criticism of China.
But this July has been particularly bloody. It has been a violent month for Kashgar which ended with a law and order disaster for China’s troubled province with the last week of July marking the peak.
On July 18, 14 rioters were killed when they reportedly attacked a police station and killed four people in the province’s Hotan city.
Saturday, July 30th: Violence began in Kashgar when two men hijacked a truck, killed its driver and then rammed the truck into a crowd. Authorities say the men jumped out, hacking at passers-by randomly, leaving eight dead and 28 injured. The Police claimed killing one of the attackers.
On Sunday, July 31st, a group of men overran a restaurant, killing the owner and a waiter before setting the building on fire in the west of Kashgar’s central square. They then ran into the street with knives attacking police and bystanders. Six bystanders were killed and 12 were injured.
Less than two weeks ago rioters stormed a police station in Xinjaing’s south-western city of Hotan that left 18 people dead.
By Monday, August 2, 2011 two ethnic Uighur men, Memtieli Tiliwaldi and Turson Hasan, were killed in a corn field on the outskirts of the city of Kashgar, Xinhua said.
Chinese officials blamed the weekend bloodshed on Uighur Islamic militants campaigning for an independent homeland from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
The major development has been violence of course, but also of China’s blaming of “extremists” trained in terror camps in Pakistan for orchestrating the attacks. A statement by the Kashgar municipal government said militants trained by the ‘East Turkistan Islamic Movement’ in Pakistan were responsible for the recent flare up in violence.
“A group of religious extremists led by culprits trained in overseas terrorist camps were behind the weekend attack on civilians in China’s far-western Xinjiang,” Xinhua said.
“Initial probe has shown that the heads of the group had learned skills of making explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the terrorist group East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Pakistan before entering Xinjiang to organise terrorist activities,” it said.
The Indian Express reported, “This is perhaps the first time that China has pointed fingers at its close ally Pakistan while referring to ETIM camps there. Xinjiang shares its borders with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and a lot of trade between China and Pakistan is routed through Kashghar as it is located close to the border.”
While it adds further credence to India’s contention that Pakistan shelters and trains terrorists, the question remains whether China will act decisively against Pakistan’s state sponsored terror mechanism. China’s increasing weight in the world necessitates that US alone doesn’t matter. But will China go against Pakistan which is essentially becoming a failed state?