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China: Are syringe attacks terrorism?

Xinjiang in northwestern China has been offline since the riots involving hundreds of Uighurs on July 5 and netizen reports are scarce, but with several hundred syringe attacks having taken place since, leading Han residents of Ürümqi to take to the streets over the past few days, dialogue doesn't seem to be a priority.

Photos from the streets of Ürümqi have been posted to discussion board website Paowang, however, on September 4th and 5th.

Why resort to syringe attacks? nkpoper at Bullog International considers the resistance struggle perspective:

新疆又出事了。

这次好像没人说“新疆扎针案是中共的阴谋”了吧?珍珠港有人说阴谋,911有人说阴谋,75有人说阴谋…嗯,最后一条有人说得还有鼻子有眼,我也只能说“按道理说不是”,没处核实去。

当时我就想,要是这回60周年,维族人把XXX给炸飞了,保不定也有人说是阴谋呢!现在出了扎针事件,有了这个铺垫,万一XXX飞了,也许还可以不算阴谋,纵做鬼,也幸福啊。

More trouble in Xinjiang.

Doesn't look like anyone's saying this time though that these syringe attacks were a CCP conspiracy. People said Pearl Harbor was a conspiracy, people said 9/11 was a conspiracy, and people said the July 5 riots were a conspiracy…even supplying all the details, but all I can say is, that doesn't make sense, and I have no way to confirm.

But it got me thinking, if Uighurs blow up Zhongnanhai during the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, you never know, people might see a conspiracy in that too! Now with these syringe attacks, there's something to go by, and if by some small chance Zhongnanhai does get blown up, it might just not be a conspiracy, but people up to no good, and happily at that.

虽然没看到阴谋论,不过针对此事却有毛左式的语言冒出来:毛泽东说过“哪儿有压迫,哪儿就有反抗。”这哪儿对哪儿啊!汉人游行倒算反抗,但游行的由头却是扎针,扎针既不能算压迫,也不能算反抗。要真是想引用名人的语录,希特勒倒是有句比较沾边的:“恐怖只能用恐怖来对抗。”

不过,我可要声明:希特勒这句话只是沾边而已,未必贴切,更不能说就该这么干。我只想重申那个最基本的逻辑:

在斗争中犯规也许不可避免,尤其是激烈的斗争。象二战,各方都用过很多过激的手段。但是象75事件那样纯粹地指向平民,那就绝对不可接受了。制造这种恐怖的人是不值得任何同情的,任何同情都只能鼓励他继续制造恐怖。75如此,扎针事件也如此。

Though I haven't seen any conspiracy theories, Maoist-style language has popped up over this incident: Mao Zedong once said, “wherever there is oppression, there will also be resistance.” Just who are we talking about here though? Han rallying on the street, that counts as resistance, but the cause of the cause of the protests was the syringe attacks, and syringe attacks don't really count as oppression, but not resistance either. If people really want to quote some great figure, Hitler actually has one line that quite fits here: “only terror is capable of smashing terror.”

However, to make myself clear, this Hitler quote only fits this situation, which isn't to say it's appropriate, and definitely isn't what should be done. I'm merely reiterating that most base of logic:

Violation in the midst of struggle may be inevitable, particularly in fierce struggle. Like WWII, wherein all parties resorted to extreme measures. But with the July 5 riots, aimed solely at civilians, such measures are completely unacceptable. The people manufacturing this kind of terror don't deserve any sympathy; any sympathy they are given will only encourage them to continue creating terror. That was the case with the July 5 riots, and that's the case now with the syringe attacks.
[…]

Can low-grade terror tactics be justified and should Wang Lequan step down, as so many Han have demanded this past week? Roland Soong comments at EastSouthNorthWest on his translation of opinions expressed in Hong Kong media by two mainland (both also active bloggers) voices on Xinjiang issues in his September 4 post, The Xinjiang Syringe Riots:

Central University of Nationalities (in Beijing) Uighur associate professor Ilham pointed out that the 7.5 incident had been violently suppressed and Xinjiang is now under high-pressure policies now. Therefore, it can be expected that the Uighurs should use methods such as syringe attacks to take revenge. He believes that it is not enough to use force to heal the hurt in the hearts of the Uighur people.

The Han writer Huang Zhangjin who studies the Xinjiang problem pointed out the authorities have failed to recognize their mistake after the 7.5 incident and continues to lock down information. “The syringe revenge attacks have been circulated around for quite some time and the citizens are scared. They wouldn't allow this to be reported until after the attacks exploded. How can this satisfy the anger of the citizens?” Huang Zhangjin believes that in order to calm down the tense situation in Xinjiang now, the best thing is to relief Wang Lequan from his job. “The mistakes in the ethnic policies may not have been created by him, but only he can be the scapegoat that can relieve the angers of the Uighurs and the Hans and bring them down the road to reconciliation.”

(ESWN Comments: These are extraordinary comments. On the first comment, it would seem that most people regard it as wrong to use syringe to attack people at random and sow terror. This is called terrorism (“premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents”). Instead, the comment seems to justify the use of terrorism. This is not going to convince many people.

On the second comment, Wang Lequan is proposed as the scapegoat to be sacrificed for the sake of reconciliation between the Hans and the Uighurs. But why is Wang Lequan unsatisfactory to the Uighurs and the Hans? Because both sides perceived Wang to be tilted towards the other side and they want someone who tilts more to their side. Why were water bottles thrown at Wang Lequan during his speech? Because he promised “severely punishing the criminals in accordance with the law” and the demonstrators did not consider this good enough. To appease these Han demonstrators, the replacement would have to be even more oppressive and draconian, which would upset the Uighurs even more. So the idea of scapegoat will only postpone the problem temporarily. It isn't going to lead to reconciliation.)

Possibly related, an anonymous netizen account of the recent situation in Xinjiang, ‘Just back from Xinjiang, the situation there is far more severe than can be imagined’, appeared online on Saturday and received more circulation Sunday:

31号到新疆,4号离开,基本都在乌鲁木齐和石河子。先说说看到听到的各种见闻:

1. 老王没啥前途了,不管他有多么辉煌的历史,现在一切都完了,原因就一个:所有的老百姓,包括汉族和各少数民族,都不信任他,都在骂,让他滚。传闻:75出事时在招待一个山东代表团,喝高了。。。93出来安抚群众,挨了矿泉水瓶。。。最新听到的替代人选是强卫,团派,有化工,纪检,边疆经验,各项指标位居前列,热门人选。

2. 75的反应远没有某些人所说的处置及时,出租司机说,警察都在挨打,根本顾不上救人。。。到了76还有数人结伙的歹徒在闹事,77的反击也比原先听到的规模更大,人,饭店,清真寺,都砸的不轻。最郁闷的一个传闻:牺牲的战士,最紧急时对天开了三枪,没子弹了。。。靠。。。希望是假的。。。

3. 乌市乱得很,乌洽会只办了两天就停摆。93当天,乌市全面戒严,准出不准进,只有新A牌照车在严查后可以进,机场火车站必须出示机票车票,否则一律免进。我们正好在石河子参加招标,来的人说高速路上几十辆军车满载荷枪实弹的战士往乌市方向疾驰,走的一个哥们更惨,想去市里结果到处封路,转悠了十几个小时只能回石河子。

I arrived in Xinjiang on August 31 and left September 4, with most of my time spent in Ürümqi and Shixenze. First I'll just say what I saw and heard:

1. Old Wang Lequan has no future there, irregardless of how splendid his past was, that's all gone now and for one reason only: all people, including Han and all the ethnic minorities, do not trust him, are cursing him out, want him to scram. There's a rumor: when the July 5 riots broke, he was hosting a representative group from [Wang's home] Shandong province, and very drunk. When he came out to placate the crowds on September 3, people threw water bottles at him…the last I heard was that Qiang Wei has been chosen to replace him: he's from the Youth League Faction, has a chemical engineering background, experience in the central discipline inspection commission, border control, and his outstanding performance makes him a hot candidate.

2. Certain people weren't as quick as they said in responding to the July 5 riots; taxi drivers said that police were being attacked all over, unable to help people needing saving…by July 6 thugs had ganged up and were making trouble; the Han backlash on July 7 was far bigger than was originally understood: people, hotels, mosques, all damaged quite badly. The most depressing rumor is that the soldiers who were martyred who, when things were at at their worst, went to fire three warning shots in the air, were out of bullets…damn…I hope that isn't true…

3. Ürümqi is a mess. The Urumqi Fair had to stop after just two days. On September 3, all of Ürümqi was locked down, nobody allowed in or out, only vehicles with ‘Xinjiang A’ license plates were allowed through the tight inspection points, and all people at the airport and train station were required to show their seat tickets to get on board. We were in Shixenze to participate in an invitation for bidding, and people there said the highways were full of manned emergency army trucks rushing into Ürümqi. One guy who left got it bad, he went to head into the city but all the roads were blocked; after being stuck for more than ten hours, he had no choice but to head back to Shixenze.

4. 31号到新疆的时候就听说有歹徒在扎黑针,捅黑刀,尤其是对上学的孩子们下手,很多大人没办法只能不上班,给孩子们当保镖。让人无法接受的是,乌市8月5 号以来就有这样的事件发生,石河子也有传闻,一个来月,愈演愈烈,ZF不说毫无举措吧,至少是办案不力,怎么让老百姓信任?93当天在石河子至少有三个出租司机说,我们宾馆对面的小区里当天有两人被扎,有人说被杀。。。

5. 歹徒们放话,75只是开始,国庆之前,还有大动作。。。

6. 当地人的生活虽然受到影响,但都对这样的事情有心理准备,生产生活还都算正常,有钱的都想走,流动的人包括我们这些来做业务的,在街上也看不出什么异常,但心里总是紧张,终于明白啥叫笼罩在恐怖气氛里了。

4. When I got to Xinjiang on August 31, I heard that thugs were pricking people with dirty needles, dirty blades, even targeting children on their way to school; many adults had no choice but to stay home from work and be bodyguards for their children. What's unacceptable is that these things began on August 5, similar rumors in Shixenze, and things continued to worsen for a month, with no word from the government of any response, meaning at the very least that they couldn't handle the situation, so how are people supposed to trust them? On September 3 no fewer than three taxi drivers in Shixenze told me that two people had been pricked that day in the neighborhood across from our hotel, someone said someone had been killed…

5. The hooligans have said that July 5 was just the beginning, and that something big is yet to come before the October 1 National Day celebrations…

6. Despite the impact on the lives of locals, most are prepared for something like this, and life is more or less going on as normal; those with money want to leave, and those getting out includes types like us just visiting on business. Nothing too out of the ordinary can be seen on the streets, but I was perpetually nervous, and now I finally understand what it means to be in the midst of a cloud of terror.

11 comments

  • GTFO

    Freudian slip? ingrained western bias? or just sheer incompetence?

    75的反应远没有某些人所说的处置及时,出租司机说,警察都在挨打,根本顾不上救人

    “taxi drivers said that police were busy beating people”

    这次平息暴乱中,我们那么多同志负了伤,甚至牺牲了,武器也被抢去了,这是为什么?也是因为好人坏人混杂在一起,使我们有些应该采取的断然措施难于出手。处理这件事对我们军队是一次很严峻的政治考验,实践证明,我们的解放军考试合格。如果用坦克压过去,就会在全国造成是非不清。所以,我要感谢解放军指战员用这种态度来对待暴乱事件。尽管损失是令人痛心的,但可以赢得人民,使是非不明的人改变观点。让大家看看,解放军究竟是什么人,有没有血洗天安门,流血的到底是谁。这个问题清楚了,就使我们取得了主动。虽然牺牲了许多同志非常令人痛心,但客观地分析事件的过程,人们就不得不承认,解放军是人民的子弟兵。这也有助于人民理解在这场斗争中我们所采取的方法,今后解放军遇到问题,采取措施,就都可以得到人民的支持了。这里顺便说一下,以后再不能让人把武器夺去了。总之,这是一个考验,考试是合格的。

  • […] Party has blocked it. It seems that the situation is “far more severe” than imagined: When I got to Xinjiang on August 31, I heard that thugs were pricking people with dirty needles, dirty blades, even targeting children […]

  • Thanks for the heads up, fixed now.

  • […] Voices Online señala que “la gente estaba siendo atacada con agujas sucias, incluso eran atacados niños cuando […]

  • xinjiang chinese

    我是出生成长并工作生活在那儿的新疆人,9月2日中午因公事离开乌市,今天那里的朋友电话告诉我多待些日子再回去,还乱着呢。我还有老公和女儿在乌市,只有赶紧忙完回去和家人分担恐惧和无奈。我这几天看了许多中外网民对此事的评论,尤其关注新疆以外的维族人评论,我无语了,只有一个强烈的愿望,公布7月5日所有的影像资料,让地球人都知道那晚在一个文明国家,公民社会发生了什么?什么叫屠杀?汉人基本上是个事不关己高高挂起的民族,我的蒙古族和俄罗斯族邻居说你们汉人心不齐,才会这么惨。汉人7月7日才游行是因为我们6号上午根本不知道发生了什么,以为他们不过打砸抢烧而已,下午才有喜欢深夜上网的朋友告知那是一场屠杀啊,每个汉人这才想原来光天化日之下走在大马路上不招谁不惹谁也会被打,被杀,甚至连三岁的孩子也不能幸免,于是有了7月7日游行和报复。不过被政府压住了。日子好像在慢慢平静,但半个月前我们听说了注射器扎人,以及被抓住的维族当被扭送至公安局时竟被放了,75被抓的维族也大多放了,我们想只有自己小心了。于是尽量不出门,出行也是前后左右看,确认自己周围三米内没有不认识的维族。他们大概觉得这样给汉人的刺激不够,所以9月1日开学了,他们对无警惕的汉族中小学生下手了,一家一个孩子,这等于是要汉人的命,于是有了9月3日,4日游行和抓住扎针的维族往死里打的事。策划整个事件的维族人深知共产党的愚笨,因为中国政府深怕血腥的画面会刺激全国的汉人,深怕人民问责在汉人被杀的近五个小时警察和武警在干什么,怕人民问无视法制的民族政策和这次屠杀有什么关系,所以他们像做贼一样不敢回答西方媒体究竟被杀的汉人有多少,被击毙的凶手有多少。这给了谁造谣的机会呢?中国政府本为了遮盖自己的过错而在犯更大的过错,本来只有10%的维族与汉人对立,愚蠢的政策把中立的40%也推向了仇恨。我和丈夫都是经历了89年天安门事件的大学生,六年后看到一家西方媒体的采访录,才痛苦地意识到我们被利用了。我们尊敬北大的王丹,鄙视利用我们热情把学生运动引向歧途的柴林之流。任何拿75和64相提并论的人都是对那个时代中国大学生的侮辱。我们知道历史上激进的革命总是给少数政客带来好处,而牺牲的是民众的利益。我欣赏英国似的渐进改革,所以虽然我对中国的现状有许多不满,但我希望逐步的改革而不是动荡的革命。

    • Xinjiang Chinese above writes:

      I’m from Xinjiang, I was born there, grew up there, and work there now. On September 2 I had to leave Urumqi on business, and today I talked to a friend there who told me to wait a few more days before coming back, things are still chaotic. My husband and daughter are both in Urumqi, so I’m anxious to finish my work and be with my family who are terrified and helpless. I’ve seen a lot over these past few days of what netizens both in China and abroad have written about these things, especially those comments about Uighurs outside of Xinjiang; I’m speechless, but I do have but one strong desire, and that is for all the video footage from July 5 to be made public, so that people around the world can see for themselves what happened to this society on that night in this civilized country. To see what a massacre looks like.

      The Han for the most part are a people who don’t concern themselves with affairs in which they are not involved, and my Mongol and Russian neighbors say that we Han don’t stand together, which is why things are so tragic. The reason Han took to the streets on July 7 is because we had no idea what happened on the morning of the 6th, we thought they just smashed and torched some things and that’s it. Only that afternoon did we learn from some night owl netizen friends that there had been a massacre, and then all Han started thinking that anyone who went outside on the streets would be beaten or killed for no reason or without provocation, and that even 3 year-old children weren’t even being let go, so then there was the rally and retaliation on July 7.

      But that was shut down by the government. Things slowly went back to normal, but then a fortnight ago we heard about people being stabbed with syringes, and that Uighurs who were being tackled and taken to the police stations were actually being let go, and that most of the Uighurs detained from July 5 had been let go. It felt like we were the only ones concerned about this. So we did our best to stay indoors, and were careful to look around if we went to, to make sure there weren’t any Uighurs we know in the immediate vicinity. It seems they felt they hadn’t provoked us enough, so on September 1 when the school year started, they started targeting elementary and high school students who weren’t paying attention. Our families only have one child each, who for us are the future of the Han, so on September 3-4 there were Uighurs who were caught with syringes who were getting beaten.

      The Uighurs who planned this whole thing know how stupid the CCP is, because what the Chinese government fears most is the sight of blood setting off Han nationwide, and fears people will demand to know what the police and militia police were doing for the nearly five hours during which Han were being killed; fear that people will ask what the connection is between ethnic policies in violation of the law and this massacre; which is why they were shady and evasive in not answering western media questions about just how many Han were killed, and how many killers were shot down. Who did this give the opportunity to spread rumors? Originally, only about 10% of Uighurs and Han were opposed to the larger mistakes the Chinese government made while trying to cover up their smaller mistakes, but it was their stupid policies that pushed the 40% in the middle toward hatred.

      My husband and I were university students during the Tiananmen incident in 1989, and it was only six years after that when we saw a western media report that we painfully realized that we had been used. We respect Wang Dan from Peking University, and despise Chai Ling and her ilk that manipulated our enthusiasm to push the student movement to a crossroads. Anyone who mentions the July 5 riots in the same breath as June 4 is just insulting the Chinese university students from that era. We know that throughout history radical revolution has only been to the benefit of a small number of politicians, and that what gets sacrificed are the interests of the people. I admire the kind of gradual reforms as seen in England, which is why although I’m dissatisfied with many aspects of contemporary China, I still do hope for gradual reforms and not turbulent revolution.

  • xinjiang chinese

    John Kennedy,
    I can not express myself well in English, will you please give me a favor and put my comment above into English. Thank you.

  • […] of the recent ethnic unrest there continues to be highly restricted. Building off radical interpretation of Uighur-on-Han violence in Ürümqi, however, and noting that neighboring Mongolia has its fair […]

  • Flores

    Are the syringe attacks definitely true? When I first heard about it I thought it sounded like a rumor that just gets repeated enough that people are scared and believe it.

  • […] mivantana loatra na an-tserasera na ivelan'ny serasera ny any Xinjiang. Raha halalinina ny fandikana ny herisetra eo amin'ny Oigoro sy ny Sinoa Han any Ürümqi ary raha jerena koa fa i Mongolia […]

  • Songs of protest—–
    IN A POPULAR TIBETAN SONG, TASHI DHONDUP SINGS OF BROKEN FAMILIES, CHINESE OCCUPATION, AND THE STERILIZATION OF THE TIBETAN RACE. THE ALBUM, “TORTURE WITHOUT TRACE,” WAS RELEASED AFTER RARE ANTI-CHINA PROTESTS SWEPT TIBET TWO YEARS AGO, LEAVING AS MANY AS 200 PEOPLE DEAD.
    DECHEN PEMBA, A BRITISH-BORN TIBETAN WHO PUBLISHES ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF TASHI DHONDUP’S SONGS ON THE BLOG HIGH PEAKS PURE EARTH, SAYS THE ALBUM BECAME AN INSTANT HIT.
    “TASHI DHONDUP’S SONGS WERE REALLY POPULAR AMONGST TIBETANS BECAUSE EVERYBODY HAD BEEN FEELING SO TRAUMATIZED AFTER THE EVENTS OF 2008 AND THE PROTESTS AND THE CRACKDOWN,” PEMBA SAYS. “THE SONG WAS PASSED AROUND THROUGH THE INTERNET. PEOPLE WERE USING THEIR MOBILE PHONES AND PLAYING THEM TO EACH OTHER AND PASSING THEM AROUND.”

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