The dramatic stabbing carried out by ten assailants in a Chinese train station Saturday is believed to be the work of an ethnic minority in the Xinjiang region. The attack, which the government is now calling a terrorist act, left 29 people dead and 143 seriously injured.
Ten hooded figures with masks and long knives entered the Kunming Railway station with an intent to kill. The attackers began stabbing passengers waiting in the ticket line with daggers and knives. New blood leaked to the cold floor as person after person dropped. The violence only ended when police shot and killed four of the suspects.
The Chinese government believes the attack was a shocking retaliation by the members of the Uighur minority in the country’s western Xinjiang region. Before the attack took place, the government had announced a plan to bring peace to the divided region, where Uighur and Han Chinese members live with intense conflict, together.
The attack sparked a government statement warning that military crackdowns would intensify in the Xinjiang region, where protests have turned bloody in recent months. Over 100 people of the Uighur ethnicity have died. China’s military factions have involved themselves in the protests, sometimes attacking unarmed civilians.
The Uighur ethnic group is of Turkish decent practicing moderate forms of Sunni Islam. This separates the group from Han Chinese ethnic members who heavily populate the region, leaving them more things in common with other Central Asian countries. Some in the Uighur minority have been promoting separation from China, which has led to demonstrations.
Many in China believe the government is only fueling the ethnic differences in the region rather than diffusing them, which may have led to stabbing, if it was the work of those from the Xinjiang region. Some human rights groups believe the government is using too much force and not enough diplomacy to control the problems in Xinjiang.
A representative for the World [Uighur] Congress, that favors self-determination, Dilxat Rexit said, “If this incident was…the work of Uighurs, then…it may be an extreme act by people who feel they cannot take it anymore.”
Many attacks and demonstrations believed to have been held in the name of the Uighur independence have happened close to the Xinjiang region, but Saturday’s events changed that. The attack took place in the capital of the Yunnan Province, far from the Xinjiang region. If the accusations are true, that means the Uighurs are taking a braver stand against the government.
However, whatever sympathy the Chinese people had for the Uighurs before Saturday’s events seems to have vanished. The brutality and complete randomness of the stabbings shook the entire country. “[These] terrorists were cruel without any humanity,” said Chinese official Meng Jianzhu. “They…abandoned their conscience.”
The attack has left many in China pondering the need for such brutality and animosity. “I just can’t imagine who would want to kill innocent people,” said Yang Wei, a middle aged truck driver.
If the belief, that the stabbings are the work of Xinjiang region separatists, is true, the Chinese government is prepared to punish them harshly. Jianzhu said “We must strike hard against them.”
By Erin P. Friar