16 Chinese police killed in suspected Uighur attack
The attack highlights security threats posed by China's extremist groups in the run-up to the Olympics.
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Last week, however, the vice-governor of Xinjiang said that there were "only a small number of sabotage activities" in the province, reports The Guardian.Skip to next paragraph
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The authorities have repeatedly accused Uighur Muslim separatists seeking an independent "East Turkestan" of plotting violent attacks and recently claimed to have arrested 82 people in Xinjiang this year in connection with terrorism.
Human rights campaigners and Uighur exiles argue that the government has exaggerated the threat of violence, and deliberately blurred the distinction between extremism, pro-independence arguments and cultural expression to justify repression in the region.
The Los Angeles Times reports that experts on Uighurs say extremist groups in Xinjiang appeared to be in decline and that most violent incidents in Kashgar and other hot spots are more likely to result from personal grudges or overzealous security crackdowns, rather than terrorism.
John Wang, professor of criminal justice at Cal State Long Beach, said the radical Uighur separatist wing known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement saw its heyday between 1993 and 1997, when it mounted about 200 bombings and other attacks.
Since 2001, the movement has focused more on activities outside China, including Afghanistan. But with the Olympics, some rebels may be turning their attention back to their homeland....
He emphasized that the East Turkestan movement was not a single group, but a collection of 19 loosely banded organizations.
Last month, another extremist group claimed responsibility for deadly explosions on buses in Shanghai and Yunnan, the BBC reports. Calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), it released a video that a Washington-based monitoring company said was titled "Our Blessed Jihad in Yunnan." However, China has denied that these explosions were terrorist-related and has not linked them to the Olympics.
Al Jazeera reports that TIP threatened to target the Olympics in the video, according to IntelCenter, an American monitoring group. A Shanghai government official dismissed the group's reported claim, saying the recent bus blasts were "indeed deliberate but had nothing to do with terrorist acts."
The Christian Science Monitor reports that Uighurs are China's fifth-largest ethnic minority, with 8 million people concentrated in Xinjiang Province. Many are unhappy over strict controls by Beijing on public displays of their language and faith as well as the growing domination of Han Chinese in business and local government.
Uighurs are resentful at the way Han Chinese monopolize the best jobs and the top political posts, even though Xinjiang is theoretically an autonomous province. Han residents routinely complain that Uighurs are dirty, lazy, and dishonest.