China’s officials have blamed militants from the western region of Xinjiang for the killings at a railway station in China’s Southwestern Kunming city. The attack on March 1, 2014, has left 29 dead and more than 130 injured according to state news agency Xinhua.
The attack coincides with the arrival of deputies from around the country to Beijing for the second session of the 12th NPC (National People’s Congress), the annual meeting of parliament, which opens on March 5.
The Kunming government says “evidence at the crime scene showed that the Kunming Railway Station terrorist attack was carried out by Xinjiang separatist forces.” State news agency Xinjiang described the incident as “an organized, premeditated violent terrorist attack”.
It’s not the first time state media and local officials have defined violent incidents as Xinjiang terrorist activity. This official definition has turned random individual criminal acts into the collective responsibility of an ethnic minority and resulted in the labeling of its members as terrorist suspects. In October 2013, Chinese authorities called an ethnic Muslim Uyghur who plowed his car into a crowded part of Tiananmen Square a deadly terrorist act. After the Tiananmen crash, China has stepped up security in Xinjiang.
On Sina Weibo, the Kunming mass stabbing became the most discussed topic on March 2, 2014. Some witnesses described details of what happened, though many of the posts were quickly deleted.
While the government’s label of “Xinjiang terrorists” has triggered another round of irrational hatred for Xinjiang people among netizens, some intellectuals have warned not to put terrorist labels on Xinjiang people.
Outspoken journalist Li Chengpeng wrote[zh]:
No matter who, for whatever reason, or of what race, chose somewhere so crowded as a train station, and made innocent people their target – they are evil and they should go to hell.
A native Xinjiang netizen “vicki” wrote:
From last night we can see the Kunming incident on a variety of network and media, I feel very sad, but as someone from Xinjiang, I have to say something. Terrorists are being rejected by the world, it cannot be representative of the whole Xinjiang region! Please do not put this label on your fellows! A moment of silence for the victims of Kunming from Xinjiang!
Media research expert “Du Zijian” wrote:
I do not support the word “Xinjiang” in the news report. Terrorists are terrorists, the scum of humanity; it shouldn’t be related to a nation or a region. This tag is not right, such a label tears the whole nation apart. I object!
Online personality “Jiazhuang zap niuyue” wrote:
Please do not twist your outrage for the terrorist into the fear and segregation of a whole nation, that is what they want. Please do not twist your fight against the violence into discrimination and hostility of a nation, that is what they want.
Alternative blog Qiwenlv commented:
In the face of terrorist attacks, we should not vent anger at Xinjiang people or Uighurs, but rather to examine the root cause behind this tragedy. No one wants to see innocent people being massacred by terrorists, but putting aside the reasons to pursue the result cannot find a way out.