Friday October 18, 2019



June 16th, 2014

Map of China, Credit to CIA World Factbook

China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region has experienced a shocking number of terrorist attacks over the course of the last year. Xinjiang is a sizeable, semi-autonomous province in China’s northwest with a large Uighur population, a Muslim minority in China.

One of the most recent large scale attacks, as reported by China Daily, occurred when “two vehicles, without license plates, broke through roadside fences and plowed into people at an open-air market in Urumqi [Xinjiang’s capital]. . . explosive devices were set off, causing the deaths of at least 31 people and injuring 94 others.” Smaller-scale attacks continue to happen on a weekly basis. The attacks typically involve the use of guns, knives, explosive devices, and other available weapons.

Xinhua, China’s primary state news agency, has reported that “three people were killed and 79 injured in an attack on April 30 at a railway station in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Earlier in March, assailants killed 29 civilians and injured another 143 at a railway station in the southwestern city of Kunming.” As of March 21 of this year, 39 people have been sentenced for up to 15 years imprisonment for their involvement in attacks that occurred in the region in the last two months alone.

Although Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, is a spectacle of a modern, sophisticated city, the southern part of the region is populated mostly by impoverished Uighur communities. According to an article in Business Insider, high crime, unemployment, and infant mortality rates plague the Uighur population  and many feel “the marginalization of the Uighur people in China’s national economic life is a major contributing factor to the local population’s discontent with Beijing.” In Xinjiang, the tensions are often high between the Han Chinese, the majority group in China, and their Uighur neighbors. Some speculate this tension is the result of the huge gaps in standards of living, economic prosperity, and education, as well as a significant language barrier, and that these tensions manifest into violence.

The situation becomes more complicated when religious and outside groups come into the mix. Business Insider reported that “the rise of fundamentalist Islam in Central Asia and Xinjiang’s neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan is visibly changing the more moderate brand of Islam practiced in Xinjiang.”

Chinese state media largely attributes the incidents to members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP). Beijing also accused overseas Uighur organizations, such as the World Uighur Congress, of creating and fueling unrest in Xinjiang. On the other hand, Uighur activist groups argue the protests are acts of some of the local Uighur population lashing out at Beijing’s “systematic oppression.”

According to a CNN article discussing the recent attack when two SUVs drove into a market and tossed explosives, Guo Shengkun, minister of public security, called for severe punishment for those responsible. President Xi Jinping echoed these sentiments and called for those behind the terrorist attacks to be “severely punished.”

The U.S. has similarly condemned these attacks. In a statement regarding the acts of terrorism in Xinjiang, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “This is a despicable and outrageous act of violence against innocent civilians, and the United States resolutely opposes all forms of terrorism.”

The unrest and tension continue to produce attacks that injure both the Han and Uighur populations in Xinjiang. While the reasons behind these attacks and the people involved are often disputed, counterterrorism actions need to be taken. With so many questions left unanswered and details obscured, it is difficult to predict how this situation will unfold.


For more information on the attacks in Xinjiang, see the following news articles:

CNN“China launches terrorism crackdown after Xinjiang region attack”

Business Insider“What’s behind China’s Xinjiang problem?”

Voice of America: Q&A“What is Driving Violent Attacks in China’s Xinjiang?”

Commentary by Arabinda Acharya and Wang Zhihao of the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore“Domestic Security in China: The Xinjiang Quagmire”

South China Morning Post Massive anti-terror campaign boosted by hundreds of tips from Xinjiang residents”

China Daily“US condemns terrorist attack in China’s Xinjiang”

Xinhua News“39 sentenced for inciting violence in Xinjiang”


For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:

Xinhua News (新华网)– ” 39判为新疆煽动暴力”

South China Morning Post (南华早报) – “大规模的反恐行动由数百个秘诀来自新疆居民提振”


Compiled and Edited by Erin Monroe