As a country that has largely distanced itself from the clusterf*ck we call ‘The International War on Terror’ back in America, China has generally been considered one of the safer places in the world in terms of not getting blown up. While we hope that this doesn’t change any time soon, recent developments have given us some cause for concern.
It all started earlier this week when a man strapped with explosives boarded an Australian tour-bus in Xi’an. The man was sniped at the airport ‘Dog Day Afternoon‘-style and the hostages all returned alive to Australia shortly thereafter. According to Xinhua news, the terrorist responsible for the attack was a local factory worker and his motives remain ‘unknown’ (no surprise there). Xi’an Mayor Chen Baogen was quick to address the incident:
“Xi’an police have prepared emergency plans and held regular exercises for all possible incidents, including traffic accidents, public security incidents, fires, explosions, epidemic outbreaks and natural disasters,” Chen said.
“We have the full capability of ensuring the personal safety for tourists from both at home and abroad,” the mayor said.
In other words, no matter what happens, DO NOT change your plans to go see the terra-cotta warriors (again, no surprise there).
At first this looked like an isolated incident, but then news of two more attempted terrorist attacks hit the press yesterday. The first took place yesterday aboard a China Southern flight from Urumqi to Beijing. China Daily reports that the airplane was forced to land in Lanzhou and that none aboard were harmed. The second attack never even made if off the ground. According to reports the terrorists were planning an attack on Beijing set to coincide with the Olympics, but have all been either killed or taken into custody by Xinjiang police.
Before this week, foreigners in China had rarely been targeted in violent crimes, but this disturbing new trend doesn’t seem to bode well for expats and tourists. Though it is unclear whether or not these more recent Xinjiang-based attacks bear any relation to the incident in Xi’an, they would all seem to indicate that the perpetrators are concerned with attracting the attention of the international community.
All this comes on the heels of a Saturday announcement that the People’s Congress is preparing to take a more aggressive approach against extremists and separatists, particularly in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Nur Bekri, Xinjiang chairman has already stepped up his rhetoric.
“We will never slacken in our fight against these evil forces,”
and Xinjiang police commissar Hou Xiaoqin is similarly adamant.
“As the country’s frontline in battling terrorism and separatism, Xinjiang’s anti-terrorism fight is of crucial importance to the stability of the whole country”
Other media outlets, however, have warned this week that the Uighur culture may be the greatest casualty in any such war.