China stages another mass show of military force in restive Xinjiang

Anti-terror rally in regional capital Urumqi follows similar shows of strength in the Uygur heartland

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 5:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 5:51pm

Chinese security forces have staged another mass anti-terror rally in the restive far western region of Xinjiang, parading hundreds of armed men through the streets of the regional capital Urumqi in a show of force after an uptick in violence.

Hundreds have died in Xinjiang in the past few years, mostly in unrest between the Muslim Uygur people, who call the region home, and the ethnic majority Han Chinese. Beijing blames the unrest on Islamist militants.

The Xinjiang government’s news website on Saturday showed pictures of hundreds of gun-toting police and soldiers standing in front of a government building shouting pledges to defeat terror, and lines of armoured vehicles driving though the streets.

Xinjiang deputy party secretary Zhu Hailun said the Urumqi rally, following on from ones in Kashgar and Hotan in Xinjiang’s Uygur heartland in the region’s deep south, were a sign of “real action” to deepen the fight against terror.

Militants and extremists would be “smashed and destroyed”, Zhu said.

Armed police out in full force after deadly Xinjiang terror attack

The official Xinjiang Daily on Sunday quoted Zhu as saying at the Saturday rally that no effort would be spared in this regard.

“With guns by our bodies, knives unsheathed, fists out and hands extended, we must use thunderous power to strike hard against terrorist activities,” Zhu said.

After a period of relative calm, there has been a rise in violence in recent weeks, particularly in the region’s south.

On Tuesday, three knife-wielding attackers killed five people and injured another five in Pishan county before themselves being shot dead in Hotan prefecture.

In December, five people were killed when attackers drove a vehicle into a government building and police shot dead what authorities described as three terror suspects last month.

The government has blamed much of the unrest on separatist Islamist militants, though rights groups and exiles say anger at tightening Chinese controls on the religion and culture of Muslim Uygurs is more to blame.

China routinely denies any repression in Xinjiang.