The Chinese government has been claiming that their police were forced into a shootout by Islamic terrorists in Xinjiang three days ago:
Police officers killed seven people they accused of being kidnappers in a remote mountainous area of Xinjiang on China’s turbulent western frontier, according to state-run news organizations on Friday.
A spokesman for the Xinjiang government told the Xinhua state news agency that a group of “violent terrorists” abducted two people in Pishan County. The area is in the restive Hotan Prefecture, which is dominated by Uighurs, a Turkic people who practice a relatively moderate form of Islam. The Han make up less than 2 percent of the population in Pishan.
Xinhua did not specify the ethnicity of the people who were killed by the police, but Radio Free Asia, which has a Uighur-language service, quoted local residents as saying on Thursday that all of the victims were Uighurs.
Doubts have been raised in recent years over the official versions of events in Xinjiang. In 2008, officials said two Uighur men were responsible for killing 16 paramilitary officers in the city of Kashgar by hitting them with a truck, setting off homemade explosives and attacking them with machetes. But foreign tourists who witnessed the event and took photographs of it said that there were no explosions and that the men wielding the machetes appeared to be wearing uniforms.
As is always the case, locals and exile groups are contesting this story, and it doesn’t sound good for the official narrative being pushed by the Beijing propaganda department:
Radio Free Asia has now reported that the “Terror Gang” was in fact a group of people, men, women and children, from Mukula village in Pishan county. The group, it is reported, had been attempting to flee to a foreign country where they could practice their Muslim religion unhindered. One of the dead had been previously imprisoned for three months for “illegal” religious activities.
RFA claims that two of the dead were women and that “Five of the captives are children aged seven to 17 years of age. One child is an elementary school student in second grade. They are being interrogated by the county.”
According to the RFA report the village chief said authorities had been keeping details of the incident under wraps in order to “maintain stability” in the community. He said the village was under a security clampdown.
It would seem obvious then that a group of Uyghurs, more than likely containing a family group, had attempted to leave China illegally. Their reason for leaving would overwhelmingly appear to be as a result of religious persecution.
Having been stopped by police they have reacted contrary to directions, or the police acted inappropriately towards the women of the group, as alluded to in the RFA report, resulting in what can only be described as a massacre. The fact that the dead policeman died as a result of knife injury would attest to the fact that the Uyghurs were not carrying weapons such as guns.
The initial story that they had “kidnapped” two shepherds is possibly correct to the extent that they required guides to get them to the border. Whether the shepherds helped voluntarily will not be known, but it is more than likely, and their status as “kidnapped” has been used by the Chinese authorities to justify the intervention and consequent, and what would appear, excessive use of lethal force against a group armed with little more than traditional Uyghur daggers.
We’ll see as more details come in- but I’ll just say that I would be extremely surprised if Beijing manages to provide any supporting evidence whatsoever for its claims.