|Few answers in violence-hit
Xinjiang - August 16, 2008
Few answers in violence-hit Xinjiang
By Andrew Harding
BBC News, Kuqa, Xinjiang province
Chen Aibao was fast asleep when the first explosions
shook the centre of Kuqa � a dusty commercial oasis in
the arid plains of central Xinjiang.
Minutes later, he heard the sound of people running
outside his own small stall, close to the city's
"I saw one of them - not clearly - but he was a young
guy," he said. "He was shouting: 'Over here, over
The putative bomber was speaking in Uighur - a language
of the region, also used by the ethnic separatist group
that has re-emerged from the shadows to launch a string
of brazen, and seemingly well-coordinated, attacks in
China's north-western Xinjiang province during the
Seconds later, a small home-made pipe bomb detonated,
sending shrapnel flying through the ceiling of Mr Chen's
"They are awful," he said, of the attackers. At least
three more explosions damaged other Chinese-owned
businesses along the same street, as well as the local
By the time we reached Kuqa, a day later, the streets
were quiet and builders were starting to replace broken
glass in shop fronts.
There were roadblocks on the edge of the city, and
armoured vehicles patrolling the main roads.
Most of the people on this street are Chinese, but we
have good relations with the minorities
The authorities said they were still hunting for three
of the attackers, but 10 were already dead, and two more
had been captured, including a 15-year-old girl who had
been injured by her own bomb and was now in hospital.
As we moved around Kuqa, it was evident that the local
authorities were struggling to decide quite how to deal
Foreign journalists are normally not allowed into
Xinjiang without official minders, but under the terms
of our Olympic accreditation, we could travel
"You must treat the facts objectively," warned a stern
but charismatic senior regional official, Mu
He said he was watching the internet closely, to see how
the foreign media covered the incident.
Unlike some of our colleagues in recent days, we were
neither harassed nor detained by security officials.
Instead, several officials hovered close to us as we
followed the trail of destruction left by the bombers.
"I don't understand it," said a Chinese businessman
named Chen Daobing, standing next to another damaged
shop, and clearly addressing his comments to the lurking
security officials rather than to me.
"I think they just want to cause panic. Most of the
people on this street are Chinese, but we have good
relations with the minorities."
'No questions, please'
Minorities. That is the key word. Decades ago, this vast
region was almost entirely populated by Muslim Uighurs -
who have much closer ties to Central Asia than to
Xinjiang resident says good relations exist with
But today the Uighurs are a minority in their own land,
seemingly pushed to the fringes of fast-growing cities
like Kuqa by a surge of Chinese immigrants.
The regional boss, Mu Tielifuhasimu - himself a Uighur -
was adamant that rising prosperity was benefiting
everyone in Xinjiang.
The scale of infrastructural investment in the region -
from motorways to wind farms - is certainly impressive.
But it is very hard to judge the real mood here.
Do the separatists have any real support? Do the attacks
mark a final, desperate bid for Olympic publicity by a
crumbling rebellion, or the start of a bold new
movement? What turns a 15-year-old girl into a bomber?
Most Uighurs we approached turned away abruptly as soon
as they saw us or our camera. Others claimed not to
understand our questions.
Even when we felt we had managed to shake off our
minders, the heavy hand of Chinese rule seemed to
smother the entire city.
Finally, in the market where the last bombers had been
cornered and killed, I spoke briefly to an unidentified
Uighur man who then turned and walked away fast into the
"I'm afraid, I'm afraid," he said quickly. "Please don't
ask me any questions."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Celil allowed to meet with mother, sister
- (Oct 13 2008)
China: Uighur Writer Detained
(Oct 09 2008)
US Court of Appeals blocks
release of Guantánamo Uighurs as government resorts to
‘scare tactics’ - (10 October 2008)
2 Chinese Policemen Killed, 7
Wounded in Xinjiang - ( 8/28/2008 )
Two police die in Xinjiang clash
- ( 8/28/2008 )
US disappointed Olympics didn't
open China more - ( 8/24/2008 )
Uyghurs stand up to China over
East Turkistan - ( 8/18/2008 )