More Uyghur Deaths in Hotan: Terrorist or Fleeing Muslims?

January 2 | 6 Comments

Clash in Pishan County of Hotan, Xinjiang in December of 2011 Less than 6 months following a Hotan riot that left 18 people dead in July of 2011, this small, Xinjiang city has made international news yet again with a string of suspicious deaths. In what is becoming a familiar trend in Xinjiang news, conflicting reports and changing stories have made it hard to pin down exactly what occured.

The story began on December 29th with Xinhua breaking a story about 7 kidnappers:

A group of “violent terrorists” kidnapped two people in the remote mountainous areas of Pishan county, Hotan prefecture, at about 11 p.m. Wednesday. Police opened fire as the kidnappers “resisted arrest,” a spokesman with the Xinjiang regional government said.

Seven kidnappers were shot dead, and four others were wounded and arrested. One police officer was killed and another wounded in the rescue. Two hostages were freed.

All major routes into the county were sealed off, and within hours Radio Free Asia had published its own reaction to the event which “doubted the official version” as expected. What wasn’t expected was the article published the next day by China’s Global Times, which admitted that the group was just trying to flee the country to Pakistan, although they refused to shake the idea that they were religious extremist:

A local official told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that the 15 kidnappers tried to cross into Central Asia to receive jihadist training, but lost their way near Pishan, which borders the Kashmir region.

They then seized two local herdsmen who were looking for lost sheep and forced them to lead the way. The herdsmen escaped and contacted local police.

This version of the story was confirmed by a named official for the Xinjiang government, but everyone conveniently failed to mention one minor detail…

…two of the people killed were women and one of the wounded was a 7-year old.

According to RFA:

“Two of the seven people killed by the police in the mountains were women. They are 29-year-old Burabiye Anduqadir and Buzohre Seydehmet. Their bodies are being held by the county Public Security Bureau,” Mukula village chief Minever Ehmet told RFA on Thursday.

“The four captives are children aged seven to 17 years of age. One child is an elementary school student in second grade. They are being interrogated by the county.”

When asked about the condition of the seven year old child, Ehmet said he was “still alive,” implying that he may have been severely injured in the shooting.

It was unclear whether any children were among those killed by police.

It’s so confusing that the New York Times dedicated two different articles to cover the story, one about the initial story and the second about the disputes.

The only facts that are truly confirmed are that all of those killed and detained were Uyghur, they were trying to flee into Pakistan, and the area around Pishan county has been temporarily closed off. Beyond this, all other details will be as easy to uncover as a needle in a propaganda haystack.

More on Trouble in Xinjiang:

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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  1. When reading the report from Xinhua, you get the feeling that the police freed the hostages, killing the kidnappers in the process.
    BUT, the Global Times states that the hostages escaped and then contacted the police, and RFA reports that the police officer killed was stabbed.
    In this case, the police was fully aware of the composition of the group of the kidnappers and came in close contact of them.
    The need to resort to fire arms and bring 7 persons down in this specific case is puzzling.


    Josh on January 2nd, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    There is plenty that is puzzling about this particular story, including the need for firearms. As long as the word “terrorist” or “extremist” is use, however, nobody really cares.


  2. The Global Times did not “admit” that the group was “just trying to flee to Pakistan”. Details emerged that the group was traveling to Pakistan for jihadist training. Nothing in the initial story (ran by Xinhua, by the way, which is different from the Global Times) precluded that possibility. Where the would-be jihadists were going was bad enough, but they didn’t “just” leave if they were also kidnapping people.

    Leaving aside the lacking credibility of the RFA sources, if women and children were wounded, that is completely the fault of the men who chose to enlist them in a kidnapping venture cum attack against police. And let’s be clear: they weren’t unarmed family men running towards the border. They _stabbed a police officer to death_ and wounded another before any attack upon themselves. ( from Tianshannet; this is corroborated by the RFA report)

    Much more can be confirmed than you are willing to believe, if you are willing to give Chinese police reports a morsel of the same respect that you give RFA propaganda and innuendo. Wallowing in uncertainty can only enable you to shirk the moral responsibility of condemning Uyghur crimes against innocents. While this attitude may be appropriate for a fawning blog about Uyghurs such as this, don’t dress it up as trying to find the truth.


    Xemit on January 5th, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    The “Essential Issue” which reemerges at each violence outbreak in Xinjiang is the total lack of transparency about the events. Speculation based on the narratives given by the Chinese officials or the Uyghur community in exile is the only resort for anyone trying to get a picture of the situation.
    If Chinese officials released evidences from their investigations or allowed independent investigations by journalists, the Chinese official narrative would dramatically gain credibility.
    RFA, which is by no means the purest and most unbiaised info channel, has a point when it provides names of persons involved in the “incident”.
    It always comes down to the Chinese word against the Uyghurs-in-exile’s one. Openness is China’s option for convincing the opinion, an option yet to be chosen.

    Beside the credibility of the narratives, the Chinese articles in themselves lack consistency when one thinks about it a few minutes.
    Wang Xinjian’s analysis in the Global Times is a telltale sign of this confusion. As an expert, he’s supposed to be credible and authoritative. Let’s look closer!

    He first states “we don’t know if it’s terrorism”, and two lines below, “the terrorists wanted to cause large scale casualties”. The picture is clear in his mind, despite his cautious introduction.
    He then implies that the group had planned to kill, but the official narrative is that they were trying to cross the border into Pakistan! Were they to bomb the Pakistanis? How could they think of large scale casualties with a knife (which is only mentionned in the sooooo dubious RFA report)? If their plan was to receive jihadist training, then being intercepted by the police was a failure, and the killing of the officier was NOT planned…

    Chinese officials, try again if you want to convince me of the terrorist nature of this shootout…


  3. It seems that China decided to kill any Uyghur who resists Chinese oppression. China makes stories to justify the killings of innocent Uyghur. China kills innnocent Uyghurs and tells the world that they killed “terrorists”. There are thousands of Uyghur political prisoners who will never be released alive. Those who have been released could only live up to 2 years. China, to support Chinese into the Uyghur homeland, bans Uyghur language, religion, cultural events. China kills native animal,cuts dawn native trees, destroys Uyghur homes and building, poisons native plants,robs Uyghur land and water…. Uyghur life expectency drops significantly… The world does not care?


  4. I don’t know where it would best fit:

    Here’s an article from Global Times about the balance of ethnicities in political power in Xinjiang:

    Two quotes :
    “Some complain that Xinjiang has never had a Uyghur official in the dominant Party secretary post at any level of government. This is untrue. Seypidin Eziz was once the head of the autonomous region’s government from 1973-78. He also used to be the Party secretary of the Xinjiang military district.
    The Chinese government gave him the top Party job in both the Xinjiang government and the Xinjiang military force during a highly chaotic period. It is inappropriate to claim that a Uyghur has never taken a top Party job in the autonomous region.”

    “The government needs to redesign its structure to balance the power of Party secretaries and open up community-level elections in the autonomous region to allow fair competition for local Party head posts among different ethnic groups.
    This will not only undo the misunderstandings between Han and other ethnic groups in Xinjiang, but also transform our nation into a _transparent_, efficient and _democratic_ state.” [underlined by me]