China Calibrates its Police Response to Train Station Attacks

3/5/14
 
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from The Wall Street Journal,
3/4/14:

Authorities Confront Violence That is Spilling Beyond Xinjiang to Rest of Country.

The morning after a deadly knife attack in this southwestern city, police knocked on the door of Tuerxun Shawuti, an ethnic Uighur from China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang.

The police were hunting for the attackers who stabbed and slashed to death 29 people at Kunming’s train station on Saturday in what Chinese authorities say was an attack by separatists from Xinjiang.

The officers were polite in questioning him, said Mr. Shawuti, a 48-year-old chef. Plainclothes officers returned Monday in force, swarming the predominantly Uighur neighborhood in an apparent search for suspects.

The carefully even-handed police response in Kunming’s small Muslim enclave of Dashuying reflects the challenges facing Chinese authorities in confronting violence that is spilling beyond Xinjiang to the rest of China.

President Xi Jinping, who became head of a new National Security Commission in January, has urged security agencies to bring the attackers to justice and snuff out terrorism nationwide.

But Chinese authorities are anxious to avoid provoking vigilante violence against Uighurs, mindful, analysts say, of ethnic tensions that in 2009 boiled over in riots in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, and left nearly 200 people dead.

On Tuesday, Mr. Xi pledged to protect ethnic unity, according to the Xinhua news agency. “We will build a ‘wall of bronze and iron’ for the ethnic unity, social stability and the national unity,” he was quoted as saying.

Police announced Monday that they had captured the remaining suspects they were looking for—three of a group of eight suspected of carrying out the railway station rampage.

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