Hundreds of people on social media have called on a state-run newspaper to apologise after it called a county in Xinjiang the "hometown of terrorists".
The Global Times on Monday ran a feature on Pishan, which was the home area of the four assailants blamed for an attack on an open air market in Urumqi last week that killed 39 people.
Cai Yuzhi, a retired former chief editor of a newspaper in Xinjiang, wrote an open letter on social media to the Global Times yesterday saying the story was unfair to the overwhelming majority of its residents. "Terrorists cannot represent an ethnic group or a region. The Global Times has departed from the country's ethnic policies and violated media ethics," he wrote in his letter.
Cai said he had recently retired from his newspaper and was deeply angered after he read the feature.
The story described Pishan as a poor but peaceful county under heavy security where most residents spoke little Putonghua.
Hundreds of microbloggers from Xinjiang and elsewhere on the mainland criticised the article. Many said it was wrong to characterise all people from a particular area or region. "It is common sense that terrorists cannot represent any one group," one person posted. Another wrote: "What you have published is exactly what the terrorists want to see."
The Global Times' editorial department told the South China Morning Post it did not plan to respond to Cai's open letter.
"We did run the feature, but we think the theme, content and the reason why we decided to publish differ from what he wrote in the letter," a member of staff said. The Global Times is affiliated with the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily.
Media commentators say it often carries strongly nationalist or hawkish opinion pieces.