Kunming railway station attack

Mourners pay respects at scene of Kunming knife massacre

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 March, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 March, 2014, 3:59am

Mourners paid their respects yesterday at the site of last week's deadly knife massacre in Kunming, as delegates to the national legislative meetings in Beijing pushed for tougher anti-terrorism laws to prevent future incidents.

Chrysanthemums and floral wreaths were piled around the large golden bull statue outside the Kunming railway station, where the killing began last Saturday. Chinese tradition considers the seventh day after a death an important time of mourning.

Twenty-nine people were killed and 143 injured during the attack, which authorities have blamed on five knife-wielding "Xinjiang separatists". Four of the attackers were killed at the scene by police and another was wounded.

[We arrive] on the scene within three minutes of the call - how is that slow?
A Kunming police officer

"I passed the station this morning to collect luggage and I was so emotional that I cannot find words to describe it," said Shi Youwu, of Chuxiong , whose mother was among the victims and remains in a coma.

Peter Haymond, the United States consul general in Chengdu , laid a wreath at the statue while visiting the station to pay his respects.

In the days since the attack, some, such as the China Law Society's Communist Party chief, Chen Jiping, have questioned the police response to the incident and whether better policies might have saved lives.

Chen, who is also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress, said he was concerned that the SWAT team commander who shot the attackers may have waited too long to open fire.

The officer told state media that he shot the five assailants - four fatally - in 15 seconds. But he only did so after firing two warning shots and securing consent from a supervisor.

"It might be slow, but there definitely will be legislation," Chen said. "In the future, a law should entitle police officers to certain rights when dealing with similar situations."

Officers at Kunming's Beijing Road police station - about one kilometre from the train station and the nearest to the scene - denied any delays in their response.

"Our first batch of police cars arrived on the scene within three minutes of receiving the call - how is that slow?" asked one.

Chen said there was no timetable for drafting a new anti-terrorism law, which was a complicated matter.

"It needs a good study," Chen said. "Important legislation should not only meet a demand, but should also be based on law. We will be better off if we tackle this legislative issue."

Additional reporting by Mimi Lau