China launches 2-month Xinjiang terror crackdown

Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese security forces have launched a two-month "strike hard" crackdown against violence, terrorism and radical Islam following renewed ethnic violence in the restive western region of Xinjiang, the regional government said Tuesday.

The campaign began Aug. 11 and will last through Oct. 15, and includes around-the-clock patrols of trouble spots, identity checks and street searches of people and vehicles, according to a notice on the regional government's website.

Authorities will step up investigations of suspicious activity and deal with defendants even more harshly through accelerated trials, the notice said.

"Public security units at all levels across the region must strengthen the work of security, take strict precautions, and create fear and awe," the statement said.

China rolls out such campaigns on a regular basis despite criticism from rights groups over the trampling of rights of the accused and imposing tougher penalties for crimes from theft to endangering state security.

The crackdown follows new outbreaks of violence blamed on militants among Xinjiang's native Uighur population, ethnic Turks who are culturally, linguistically, and religiously distinct from China's majority Han.

At least three dozen people, including the attackers, were killed in three attacks in the cities of Hotan and Kashgar, despite a massive security presence that was tightened following a major anti-Chinese riot in Urumqi two years ago in which at least 197 people were killed.

Beijing blames the violence on militants based overseas, specifically ones from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement who it says trained in militant camps in Pakistan.

Yet Beijing has provided no direct evidence, and analysts say they suspect its claims are driven more by ideology than proof. Uighur activists say harsh crackdowns only lead to greater anger among young Uighurs who already are feeling culturally and economically sidelined by waves of Han migration to the region.

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