A new official report added few details to previous accounts of Friday’s violent encounter in Xinjiang. It again blamed religious extremists for the deadly incident between police and Uyghur residents, which left several Uyghurs dead.
The only source of the information about the incident is the Chinese authorities, however, and Uyghur groups have said that it may have been presented inaccurately or in part fabricated.
The 13 alleged terrorists trained and prepared for months for the attack, said state media Xinhua. It called the incident an “organized, premeditated terrorist assault targeting the police.” It resulted in 11 deaths of the purported attackers.
“Several terrorists were shot dead by police during a terrorist attack Friday afternoon,” Xinhua reported, going on to say the police killed eight of the alleged terrorists and that three died “by their own suicide bomb.” Additionally, two police and two civilians were injured and five police vehicles either sustained damage or were entirely destroyed in the encounter in western Xinjiang’s Aksu prefecture. There was no mention of the condition or whereabouts of the remaining two suspects, nor were the victims named in the Monday report.
State media offered no further details over last week’s report on the details of the encounter or the explosion. Xinhua said the terrorists were in a suicide car bomb intended to attack a group of police preparing for patrol. Earlier reports said that the group rode motorbikes and used cars carrying LNG cylinders, however, LNG is a common fuel in vehicles in that region.
New information on the incident included charges that the 13 alleged terrorists had been trained for six months by a man named named Mehmut Tohti, who had, according to Xinhua, “spread religious extremism” for three years. The group had been watching videos of terrorist acts and listening to audio recordings prior to the incident, and had produced explosive devices and knives, according to the article.
Beijing has repeatedly accused Islamist militants and separatists for the endemic violence in Xinjiang, saying that “separatists” want to establish a state called East Turkestan, independent of Chinese rule.
Uyghur residents point to increasing Chinese pressure on Uyghur culture and religion as a factor in the continued outbursts of violence. China has locked up mosques and forbidden religious observances, and has steadily restricted the teaching of the language and culture.
Questions have been raised about the official Chinese version of events, however.
“Previous reports regarding these types of incidents proved to be unreliable and not fully confirmed by independent sources. Over the course of the last year, on numerous and separate occasions, the Chinese government made exactly the same type of accusations without providing any substantive evidence that would support these allegations,” cautioned a statement from World Uyghur Congress (WUC) after the incident.
WUC president and prominent Uyghur human rights activist, Mrs. Rebiya Kadeer, warned: “It is not the first time these incidents are being reported. WUC and human rights groups around the world have repeatedly called upon the Chinese government to conduct a transparent investigation on similar incidents. So far, no reliable information has emerged. This latest incident illustrates a recent trend of state-sponsored violence used to quell Uyghur dissent, whereby authorities ignore due process of the law, shoot and kill Uyghurs, label them terrorists, and then use counter-terrorism to justify the unlawful killings and further repression in the region.”
Journalists are prevented from conducting independent investigations in Xinjiang, and their travel is restricted, observes the South China Morning Post, adding that official reports on incidents cannot be trusted.