By B. Raman
At least eight persons — seven Uighurs and a senior police officer of the Chinese-controlled Xinjiang province — were reported to have been killed on the night of December 28, 2011, in Hotan’s Pishan county. Pishan county lies on the southern edge of the Taklamakan desert near the border with Pakistan.
According to available details from reliable Uighur sources, a police party tried to stop a group of Uighur youth who were about to enter Pakistan near village Mukula. One of the Uighur youth allegedly stabbed Adil Abduveli, the leader of the police party. The remaining members of the Police party allegedly shot dead seven of the Uighur youth who were trying to cross over into Pakistan.
The police have alleged that the Uighurs who were killed were terrorists who tried to take hostage two police officers. This led to an exchange of fire during which, according to the Police, the Uighurs were killed. Uighur sources have denied this version.
Earlier this month, one Han Chinese was reported killed and several others were injured when an Uighur attacked a group of people with a pair of shears in the streets of Dolebagh township in Kashgar city. Following this, the police rounded up 50 Uighurs of the area for questioning. Thirty of them were released and allowed to go home after the questioning. About 20 remained unaccounted for. There was speculation that they managed to escape from police custody during the questioning and that the police had intensified border patrolling in order to prevent them from escaping into Pakistan.
There have been a number of stabbing incidents in the province this year. On April 18, a young Uighur stabbed six Han Chinese and then stabbed himself to death. Four days later, another Uighur allegedly stabbed to death a 39-year-old Han woman. On July 30 and 31, at least 14 persons were stabbed to death in the Kashgar area by two groups of Uighur youth. Previously, there was a ban on Uighurs possessing fire-arms. Now a ban has been imposed on their possessing their traditional knives too, which has added to their resentment against the police.
Doletbagh is a small town located in the southeast part of Kashgar with a population of about 14,000, 97 per cent of whom are Uighurs. Most of them are unemployed due to preference given to Hans from outside in recruitment. Unable to get jobs locally, the unemployed youth try to escape into Pakistan. Reliable Uighur sources allege that the youths trying to escape are killed either by the Han Police before they cross over or by the Pakistani security forces after they cross over.
Officers of China’s Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for internal security, are attached to Pakistani security posts on the Pakistani side of the border to prevent illegal crossing of Uighur youth into Pakistan.
About the author: B. Raman
B. Raman was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: [email protected]