Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Chinese police yesterday shot dead two ethnic Uighurs suspected of taking part in a July 31 attack in Kashgar, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Memtieli Tiliwaldi, 29, and Turson Hasan, 34, were shot in a corn field outside the city yesterday, Xinhua cited Hou Hanmin, a spokesman for the Xinjiang government, as saying. The pair were suspected of involvement in a shootout at a restaurant and shopping street in which six bystanders and five suspected attackers died, Xinhua said. The Kashgar government had offered 100,000 yuan ($15,500) for information leading to their arrest.
The shooting of the suspects brings the three-day death toll from two attacks in China’s westernmost city to 22. China is calling the restaurant assault a “premeditated terrorist attack” and yesterday said the ringleaders received training in Pakistan. Eight people were killed and 27 injured in a separate July 30 truck hijacking and knifing spree, in which the attacker was also killed, Xinhua said. A July 18 riot in the city of Hotan, also in Xinjiang, left at least four people dead.
An “initial police probe” showed that the leaders of the “religious extremists” involved in the attack trained in bomb- making and firearms in Pakistan at camps run by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Xinhua said yesterday. The New York- based Council on Foreign Relations said in a 2008 report that ETIM is an extremist militant group founded by Uighurs, an ethnic group that makes up about 40 percent of Xinjiang’s population of about 20 million.
Xinjiang was the scene of clashes two years ago between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and the majority Han ethnic group that left almost 200 people dead. Muslim Uighurs share ethnic ties with the Turkic peoples of central Asia.
Dru Gladney, a professor of anthropology at Pomona College in Claremont, California, who studies Xinjiang and the Uighurs, said China’s claim that the attacks were aided from abroad “really rings hollow” in part because there is a high level of “discontent” in Xinjiang stemming from government policies seen as benefiting Han Chinese at the Uighurs’ expense.
“Because China has been playing the terrorism card for so long now, fewer and fewer people believe them,” Gladney said in an interview. “There is a total lack of credibility.”
Xinhua cited a Kashgar government statement which said “the outbreak of violence was no random occurrence” and was planned to “create conflicts between ethnic groups in order to split Xinjiang from the motherland.”
Pakistan “will continue to extend its full cooperation and support” to China against the ETIM, its foreign ministry said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “Terrorists, extremists and separatists” in Xinjiang “constitute an evil force,” the statement said.
The region’s top official, Communist Party head Zhang Chunxian, an ethnic Han, said the local government will crack down on “terrorist activities” and “illegal” religious activities, as well as strictly control dangerous and explosive substances, according to a statement yesterday on its website.
Two years ago the government announced plans to demolish much of the old city center of Kashgar, which was once a stop on the Silk Road. The government said the centuries-old dwellings and shops pose a safety hazard. Uighur groups said the plan is designed to disperse the ethnic population and stymie the transmission of cultural traditions from generation to generation. Anger over the destruction may have helped stoke the attacks, Gladney said.
Old Kashgar’s Destruction
“Demolishing the old city of Kashgar has been a major source of complaints and anger among Uighurs worldwide,” Gladney said. “The heart has been ripped out of their culture.”
Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, said in a statement that while her organization doesn’t support violence, Chinese government policies toward Xinjiang are to blame for the killings.
“I am saddened that Han Chinese and Uighurs have lost their lives,” said Kadeer, 63, once one of Xinjiang’s most successful businesswomen, who now lives in exile in the U.S. “The Chinese government has to ask itself, why do Uighurs so desperately resist knowing that they will be killed or executed? The answer should be very clear. Uighurs have lost all hope. There are no Uighur families who cannot tell a story of arrest, torture or death.”
Uighurs complain of discrimination by the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group, and of unfair allocation of the region’s resources. The reports didn’t identify the ethnic group of the restaurant owner.
Years of central government policies encouraging migration of Han Chinese to areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang have stoked ethnic tensions. China views groups pushing for greater independence as seditious.
The violence comes as China is preparing its biggest-ever trade fair in Xinjiang, which the Chinese Commerce Ministry says is designed “to boost the regional economic cooperation among Central, West and South Asian and European countries, and to promote the all-round development of Xinjiang.” The China- Eurasia Expo will open Sept. 1 in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, where police held counter-terrorism drills last week as part of preparations, according to Xinhua accounts posted on a Xinjiang government website.
--Michael Forsythe, with assistance from James Rupert in New Delhi, Haris Anwar in Islamabad and Gregory Turk, Jiang Jianguo and Jing Jin in Shanghai. Editors: Peter Hirschberg, Patrick Harrington.
To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Michael Forsythe in Beijing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bloomberg News at email@example.com; Peter Hirschberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.