According to reports from Xinhua, a group of “terrorists” attacked a police station in the city of Hotan in Xinjiang province on Monday and killed four people, including a paramilitary officer, a security guard, along with a woman and a teenage girl. Police soon retaliated and a gunfight erupted, killing between 14 to 20 people (China Daily puts the total shot at 14, Sina says 14 dead, while the Global Times says the casualty total was “unidentified”).
Xinhua says the 14 killed were all men involved in taking six civilians and some police staff hostage, before setting fire to the building (one of the few pictures to come out of Hotan shows a building on fire).
Hou Hanmin, the chief of the region information office, told the Global Times that it had been an “organized terrorist attack,” with the rioters first breaking into the offices of the local Administration of Industry and Commerce as well as the taxation bureau, leaving two people injured before then moving on to the police station. Hou also said they showed a flag with “separatist messages.”
Xinhua’s reports were careful to not say what ethnic group the rioters were from, but there’s little doubt over who was responsible. There are reports that the rioters shouted religious slogans, and that a police officer spoke in Uyghur when admonishing protesters to settle down.
The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress said it was troubled by eyewitness accounts from Hotan. In a press release yesterday, it said a group of 100 local Uyghurs had gathered in Hotan’s main bazaar to protest a police crackdown. Police had allegedly opened fire on the demonstrators, killing at least 20 people while arresting more than 70. It said the violence started when protesters confronted police about missing family members.
Hou Hanmin responded to the WUC’s claims, saying they were “total nonsense.”
The WUC’s spokesman, Dixat Raxit, warned Beijing to not label what’s happened as “terrorism,” saying “the policy carried out by Beijing is the root of the problem and the reason the situation in Xinjiang is turning sour.”
By Robert O’Connor