The right way to fight terrorism

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 4:33am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 4:33am

For so long China tended to think of terrorism as a threat from afar. The loss of innocence must now be complete with another outrage on Chinese territory, similar to several blamed on home-grown extremists among Muslim ethnic Uygur separatists from Xinjiang. More than 30 people were killed and nearly 100 injured in an attack on a street market in the regional capital, Urumqi, on Thursday. Two off-road vehicles ploughed into customers and stallholders before unidentified occupants threw explosives and crashed the cars head on, after which one exploded. Sadly the victims were ordinary, innocent people - housewives, the elderly and some of the 100-odd stallholders. The attack continued a recent pattern of attacking public places crowded mainly with Han Chinese.

Again, the attack came before or during a high-profile political event, in this case a regional security forum in Shanghai, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, hosted by President Xi Jinping. Three previous attacks in six months blamed on separatists have had a national political context, such as a presidential visit or an imminent high-profile party meeting.

The attacks are also becoming increasingly and indiscriminately violent, unlike a past focus on government targets. For example, a knife and bomb attack outside an Urumqi railway station last month killed three, including two attackers, and left 79 injured; 29 were stabbed to death at a Kunming railway station in March; and in October, a car burst into flames in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing five people. No cause or sense of injustice justifies such actions. They must be strongly condemned.

The authorities must redouble efforts to "resolutely suppress the terrorists' rampant momentum", as Xi promised after last month's attack. But the latest assault also highlights the importance of constantly monitoring policies towards the region, where tensions between Han Chinese and Uygurs have simmered for years.

Beijing has invested billions of yuan in boosting the livelihoods of all ethnic groups with improved incomes and infrastructure, educational opportunities and representation. It needs to push on with positive discrimination to address grievances over inequality, ethnic prejudice and religious repression. Dissatisfaction and strife that have been years in the making call for a long-term response.