Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Reports: Unrest in China's Xinjiang kills 35

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 11:48 PM EDT, Thu June 27, 2013
A policeman patrols the road leading into the riot-affected town of Lukqun, Xinjiang province on Thursday.
A policeman patrols the road leading into the riot-affected town of Lukqun, Xinjiang province on Thursday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Fatalities include 16 Uyghurs and two police officers
  • State media say "knife-wielding mobs" attacked government buildings
  • But Uyghur advocacy groups express doubts about the official account
  • Ethnic tensions exist between Han Chinese and Turkic-speaking Uyghurs

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Violence in the restive western Chinese region of Xinjiang has left 35 people dead, state media reported, but overseas Uyghur groups questioned the official version of events.

Frequent outbreaks of violence have hit Xinjiang, a resource-rich region where the arrival of waves of Han Chinese people over the decades has fueled tensions with the Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim ethnic group.

The latest bout of unrest took place early Wednesday in the remote township of Lukqun, about 250 kilometers southeast of the regional capital of Urumqi, Chinese state-run media reported.

"Knife-wielding mobs attacked the township's police stations, the local government building and a construction site, stabbing people and setting fire to police cars," state-run newspaper China Daily reported, attributing the information to officials with Xinjiang's regional committee of the ruling Communist Party.

The official broadcaster CCTV posted pictures of burnt out cars in front of a police station whose facade was singed black in places.

Twenty-four people were killed by rioters, including 16 Uyghurs and two police officers, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Police shot and killed 11 rioters and captured four others, who were wounded, the news agency said.

Xinhua called the event a "terrorist attack," a common description by Chinese authorities for violence in Xinjiang involving Uyghurs.

Doubts raised

"The official reports, however, must be questioned in view of the inability to independently verify this narrative," said the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), a Germany-based Uyghur advocacy group.

The WUC said it had tried to gather more information about the events, but "all Uyghur telecommunications have been shut down" in Turpan, the prefecture where Lukqun is situated.

The China Daily article didn't say what had caused the riots, and Xinjiang government officials didn't respond to phone calls from CNN seeking comment. Efforts to reach people and businesses in Lukqun were unsuccessful.

The state-media account of what happened also didn't mention the ethnicity of those involved in the riots.

But the WUC suggested that Chinese authorities' use of the standard term "knife-wielding mobs" to describe the rioters was an indication they were Uyghurs.

It called upon authorities "to independently investigate the incident and its root causes, and to alleviate the legitimate concerns of Uyghurs so as to avert such incidents in the future."

The Uyghur American Association said it "urges the international community to exercise caution over details" of the events.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday that the ministry was "seeking information from relevant departments" on the matter.

Simmering tensions

Uyghurs have complained of discrimination by the Han Chinese and harsh treatment by security forces in Xinjiang, despite official promises of equal rights and ethnic harmony.

The worst violence in decades took place in July 2009, when rioting between Uyghurs and Han Chinese left around 200 people dead and 1,700 injured in Urumqi. That unrest was followed by a heavy crackdown by security forces.

Tensions have continued to simmer.

In April this year, clashes killed 21 people in Xinjiang's Kashgar Prefecture. Regional government officials called those events "a terrorist act" carried out by "mobsters," an account that overseas Uyghur groups disputed.

"The increasing frequency with which these incidents occur illustrates the PRC's reticence to address the root causes of the tensions that are escalating," the WUC said, using an abbreviation of People's Republic of China.

"There is an ever pressing need for the PRC to afford linguistic, cultural and religious freedoms, as well as ceasing politically-motivated arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killing, in order to alleviate the recurrence of these needless and avoidable events," the group said.

CNN's Dayu Zhang in Beijing contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:51 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
David McKenzie meets some American teenagers who are spending a year in China to be fully immersed in the culture.
updated 9:59 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
The Chinese government pledges to protect a boy with HIV, who was shunned by his entire village in Sichuan, state media reported.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane.
updated 12:03 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
updated 7:21 PM EST, Tue December 9, 2014
Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons for Beijing.
updated 12:42 AM EST, Sat December 6, 2014
At the height of his power, security chief Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
updated 3:26 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
updated 1:48 AM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
updated 3:55 AM EST, Wed December 3, 2014
Despite a high-profile anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past year.
updated 7:01 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
A 24-hour bookstore in Taipei is a popular hangout for both hipsters and bookworms.
updated 8:53 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
North Korean refugees and defectors face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT