In a movement that is as much political as it is religious, China’s Uighurs, a Muslim community of about 10 million (0.8 percent of China’s population), have been agitating for an independent nation for decades. All too often, that has involved the use of terrorist violence that’s barely distinguishable from that committed by the Uighurs’ extremist brethren in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Chechnya, and so on.
Here‘s the latest example:
Fifteen people were killed when a group threw explosives into a crowded street where vendors were selling food in China’s restive region of Xinjiang, the official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday. Eleven were attackers who were killed by the police, the agency said, and 14 people were injured. The attackers also stabbed people in Friday’s attack in Shache County, state-owned Xinjiang news website Tianshan News said. It said police found detonation devices, large knives and axes at the scene.
Deadly attacks in the north-western region in recent years have left hundreds dead. The government has mostly blamed attacks on ethnic Uighur separatists, who it says want to form an independent country called East Turkestan.
Heavy restrictions on journalists in Xinjiang have made verifying details about such incidents difficult.
Knife-wielding attackers killed 38 people in an incident in Shache County in July. A local court sentenced 12 of the attackers to death in October.
China has tightened its controls over the region as unrest grows. On Friday, the Xinjiang People’s Congress passed a regulation banning people from wearing or forcing others to wear logos or clothes associated with religious extremism, state-backed newspaper China Daily reported on Saturday.
Vital caveat: It’s hard to know the exact extent and scale of Uighur violence, and even harder to know the possible provocations that preceded it (not that there can be any excuse for the indiscriminate mass murder of innocents). The Chinese government is not only a known suppressor of religious freedom, including the Uighurs’, but also controls the Uighur narrative in almost obsessive fashion.
Then again, it’s somewhere between plausible and confirmed that in 2014 alone, Uighur separatists have carried out a number of horrifically violent operations. Wikipedia supplies this list:
– On 1 March 2014, a group of knife-wielding assailants attacked people at the Kunming Railway Station killing at least 29 and injuring 130 others…
– On 30 April 2014, two attackers stabbed people before detonating their suicide vests at an Ürümqi train station. Three people, including the two attackers, were killed.
– On 22 May 2014, twin suicide car bombings occurred after the occupants had thrown multiple explosives out of their vehicles at an Ürümqi street market. The attacks killed 31 people. …
– On 28 July, 2014, … Chinese state media Xinhua said 37 civilians were killed by a gang armed with knives and axes in Xinjiang, with 59 attackers killed by security forces. … The incident is disputed as the Uyghur American Association (UAA) said that local Uyghurs had been protesting at the time of the attack.
– On 30 July 2014, the imam of China’s largest mosque, Jume Tahir, in the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang, died after reportedly being stabbed after morning prayers for his reported pro-Beijing stance.
– On September 21, 2014, Chinese state media Xinhua reported a series of bomb blasts killed in total 50 people in Luntai County, southwest of the regional capital, Ürümqi. …
– On October 12, 2014, four ethnic minority Uyghur men armed with knives and explosives attacked a farmers’ market in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, which according to police, left 22 people dead — including police officers and the attackers themselves.
The string of attacks will do nothing to dispel the notion that Islam is anything but a religion of peace.