Beijing increases security in Xinjiang after two clashes last week
BEIJING — Chinese authorities tightened their grip Tuesday on the far western region of Xinjiang, where two clashes left dozens dead last week, by confiscating knives and offering rewards for information about possible separatist attacks, according to state media.
The police also issued arrest warrants for 11 people said to be wanted for murder, bombings and other acts of violence.
The security drive, described by one senior official as a “people’s war,” has been accompanied by accusations in official media that shadowy extremist groups have orchestrated unrest among Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group.
One state-run newspaper sought to link an increase in violence in Xinjiang to Uighurs who were said to have trained in war-ravaged Syria.
On Monday, the newspaper — the Global Times, a populist tabloid owned by the People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party — claimed that about 100 Uighurs had gone to Syria to join rebel forces there who are fighting the government of President Bashar Assad.
The newspaper quoted an unidentified Chinese security official as saying that the Uighurs went to Syria to “improve their fighting skills and gain experience in carrying out terror attacks.”
Uighur exile groups and experts on the region have rejected government claims that the Xinjiang unrest was the work of foreign-trained militants.
The intense security comes days before the fourth anniversary of ethnic rioting in the regional capital, Urumqi, that killed nearly 200 people. The attacks last week included an assault Wednesday on a local police station and government offices in Turpan prefecture that left 35 dead, including 11 rioters shot by the police.
Two days later, state media reported a violent confrontation in Hotan prefecture; details remain murky.
In a speech published Tuesday, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian, said officials must “fully grasp that violent terrorist activities have become a real and major threat to stability in Xinjiang,” according to Tianshan Net, the official Internet news site for Xinjiang.
State media have reported that in the recent bloodshed, rioters were armed with primitive weapons, mostly knives. Many foreign experts have said much of the ethnic violence in Xinjiang is spontaneous and does not show the hallmarks of international planning and support.