A recent wave of violence in China attributed to members of the Uighur ethnic group, including a knife attack at the Kunming railway station in March that left 29 dead and an explosion at the Urumqi railway station in late April that killed 3, has brought international attention to China’s domestic security policies.
China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang has been the scene of simmering ethnic and separatist tensions between the province’s mainly Muslim Uighur majority and the Han Chinese. As the China analyst Kendrick Kuo wrote in WPR in March, the source of the conflict is disputed, with Chinese authorities attributing it to Muslim separatism while Western analysts emphasize government repression of Uighurs.
Whether Xinjiang’s recent violence is criminal or terrorist is also up for debate, both in China and abroad. Washington at first hesitated to label the Kunming attack an act of terrorism, using the term only after China’s state-run news agency Xinhua accused the U.S. of “double standards in the fight against terrorism.”