An attack on a plaza near a busy railroad station in China's fraught Xinjiang province left three dead and 79 injured, marking another violent incident in the region and serving as a somber reminder that Chinese efforts to stem terrorist attacks might not be working.
Last month, a large group of men armed with knives assaulted a different train station in the region, leaving 29 dead and 130 injured. Local officials blamed that attack on militant separatists that were part of the minority Muslim Uighur community, which resides in the region. The New York Times explained at the time:
The local government indicated that the attackers were Uighur separatists seeking an independent homeland in the Xinjiang region in China’s far west. The attack, in Yunnan Province, was far from Xinjiang, and if carried out by members of the largely Muslim Uighur minority could imply that the volatile tensions between them and the government might be spilling beyond that restive region.
And in October, two tourists were killed and about 40 injured when three people identified as Uighurs drove a car into Tiananmen Square.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack today, but Chinese analysts suspect that the incident, carried out by men armed with knives and explosives, was also perpetrated by militant Uighurs.
The attack was timed to coincide with the close of President Xi Jinping's four-day trip to the region, during which he stressed the government's commitment to fighting terrorism in Xinjiang. Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying that the government will "make terrorists like rats scurrying across a street, with everybody shouting 'beat them!'" adding, "the more you sweat in peace time the less you bleed in war." He also said that the situation Xinjinag is "grim and complicated."
Tensions between Muslim Uighurs and the majority ethnic Han Chinese have long been high in the region, peaking in July 2009 when 200 people were killed in clashes between the groups. Now, officials fear a resurgence in violence as more Hans Chinese enter the resource-rich area. The Los Angeles Times reports that Uighurs have long said that they aren't allowed religious freedom under the Chinese government, a claim that seems warranted, based on the government's anti-terrorist tactics in the region, and their heavy-handed treatment of religious groups in general.
Recently, authorities in the province have posted notices promising rewards for people who report others hoarding weapons or planning attacks. The fliers have also encouraged citizens to notify authorities about people growing beards, wearing veils, ripping up official documents and other behaviors that may indicate a desire to separate from government authority and structure.
Reuters reports that more than 100 people have been killed due to unrest in the Xinjiang region in the past year. Judging by today's latest attack, the government crackdown is doing little stem the tide.