A terrorist attack at a train station in Kunming on March 1 that has left 29 people dead and 140 people injured has stirred up anger and fear in China. The group of eight people, including six men and two women, are thought to have been from the Xinjiang region in the Northwest of China.
Reports claim that the knife-wielding attackers initially tried to leave the country through crossing the border in Yunnan Province and later in Guangdong Province. After failing to leave the country, the killers decided to mount a terrorist attack at either a bus or a train station. The suspects are thought to have been radicalized Muslims trying to leave China to join the global jihad.
Chinese authorities shot and killed four of the attackers, while the other four are currently in custody after being caught in Honghe, a county 174 miles away from Kunming.
The attack drew sharp condemnations from both China and the United States. On March 5, at the opening session of the National People’s Congress, a moment of silence was observed for the victims. The leaders in China have promised to fight against terrorism. The U.S. has also called the attack in China an act of “terrorism.”
Observers worry that the Chinese government will simply use this attack as a further reason to continue its brutal crackdown on the ethnic Uighur minority, living predominantly in Xinjiang Province. Tensions between the majority Han Chinese and the minority Uighurs have always been high, and recent attempts by the government in Beijing to integrate China’s Western regions through repression, development and migration of Han Chinese into historically Uighur areas has only exacerbated the situation.
The Chinese government has not been accepting of Uighur culture. Stdudents are not allowed to fast during Ramadan, religious teaching for children is not permitted and Uighur-language education is dying out. Han Chinese now make up two-fifths of the Xinjiang population and control an out-sized portion of its wealth.
One way of reducing violence in China is not to crack down through increased military presence. The answer lies in giving the Uighurs an opportunity to participate in their local culture without fear of reprisal.
– Jeff Meyer
Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, The Economist
Photo: China Daily