Four killed in attack on Xinjiang police station
Choi Chi-yuk and Ng Tze-wei in Beijing
At least four people were killed, including a paramilitary police officer and two hostages, following an attack on a police station in Hotan, Xinjiang , yesterday.
Giving no details about either the ethnicity of the attackers or the identity of the hostages, Xinhua reported that armed police rushed to the scene, saving six hostages and shooting dead several 'thugs'.
The police managed to restore order at 1.30pm after a clash that lasted about an hour.
At least one armed police officer, a police assistant and two hostages were killed, while another police assistant suffered serious injuries.
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the German-based World Uygur Congress, quoted several sources from Xinjiang as saying that ethnic Uygurs had gone to the police station to secure the release of 'innocent fellow Uygurs who had been arrested'.
He said many Uygurs had planned to stage a protest in Hotan yesterday morning over the local authorities' illegal seizure of land for a resettlement project. Internal security personnel and armed police clamped down on the demonstration, leaving many Uygurs injured and arresting 13.
Yesterday's attack was the second targeting police since Zhang Chunxian was named Xinjiang's Communist Party secretary in April last year, replacing hardliner Wang Lequan .
Seven people were killed and 14 others injured, including Uygur suspects, by a bomb set off by a Uygur riding a three-wheeled motorcycle in the southwestern prefecture of Aksu on August 19 last year.
Xinhua said yesterday that in a bid to supervise local officials on anti-terrorist affairs, a task force from the state anti-terrorism office in Beijing had been sent to Xinjiang.
Dilxat warned Beijing, saying: 'Don't label any clashes resulting from the crackdown on peaceful protests as so-called terrorism. The policy carried out by Beijing is the root of the problem and why the situation in Xinjiang is turning sour.'
Early this month, in a show of ethnic harmony, Zhang paid a high-profile visit to night markets in Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi .
Observers in Beijing said they did not think the attack in Hotan indicated a resurgence of ethnic tensions or instability in Xinjiang.
Li Wei, director of the anti-terrorism research centre at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said although the overall situation in Xinjiang had improved a great deal since widespread rioting by Uygurs in Urumqi in 2009, it was unrealistic to expect an end to violent incidents.
Hundreds of Uygurs took to the streets and clashed with Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5, 2009. A total of 197 people were killed and more than 1,600 injured in the riots.
'We still have hostile forces overseas which might not be happy to see that the situation has become better,' Li said. 'Such destabilising factors still exist.
'Since July 5, the government has sped up economic development in Xinjiang, worked at tackling the slum situation, and paired coastal cities with Xinjiang to ensure sources of aid.'
Professor Mao Shoulong , a public policy expert at Renmin University, said the latest incident was unlikely to affect Zhang's political standing or dampen general confidence in his governance.
'Since he got to Xinjiang he's done a good job addressing problems in government policies, improving economic order and maintaining public order,' Mao said. 'There are more deep-rooted problems which resulted in July 5 but it will take time to resolve them.'
History of unrest
March 7, 2008
A 19-year-old Uygur woman attempts to hijack and blow up a flight from Urumqi to Beijing
August 4, 2008
Sixteen police officers are killed and 16 others hurt in Kashgar when two Uygurs ram a truck into a squad of armed policemen
August 10, 2008
Eleven people are killed and five hurt when bombs are thrown into a police station and other government buildings in Kuqa, Aksu History of unrest
August 12, 2008
Three militia security officers are stabbed to death at a checkpoint in Shule, Kashgar
August 27, 2008
Two policemen and an assistant are killed and several injured in Kashgar in an ambush by Uygurs
July 5, 2009
Clashes between ethnic Uygurs and Han Chinese leave 197 dead and more than 1,600 injured in Urumqi
September 16, 2009
Police detain six suspects for making more than 20 bombs for suicide attacks at three sites on the outskirts of Aksu
August 19, 2010
Seven people die and 14 are wounded in a suicide bomb attack targeting a squad of auxiliary police and security guards. The suspected attacker, a Uygur man, had ridden a three-wheeled motorcycle into the security officers