Chinese commandos in campaign against Xinjiang's Islamist 'rebels'

Security forces will comb through cities 24 hours a day to conduct identity checks and searches


China has sent security commandos to Xinjiang as part of a two-month campaign against what Beijing sees as violent Islamist separatists, following fresh outbreaks of deadly ethnic violence in the troubled western region.

Last month, tensions between Muslim Uighurs and ethnic Han Chinese boiled over again. Two knife attacks and clashes between Uighurs and police left more than 30 people dead in the resource-rich and strategically vital province, which borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and a number of Central Asian states.

Beijing fears a repeat of the deadly riots of July 2009, when local Uighurs turned on Han Chinese in the regional capital Urumqi, an incident that led to deadly reprisals by Han Chinese on Uighurs a few days later. The riots killed nearly 200 people, most of them ethnic Han Chinese. The government has since kept a tight grip on the province, with human-rights groups alleging that Beijing exaggerates the threat from militants to justify harsh controls.

In a statement yesterday, the Public Security Bureau of Xinjiang warned that its "strike hard" campaign would focus on "detecting and eliminating unsafe elements" and also "crack down illegal religious activities". Any suspicious activity would be investigated and the trial process would be sped up to deal "even more harshly" with defendants. "The frequency with which terrorist activities are carried out in the region is rising and it must be curbed," the statement said.

The largest province in China, Xinjiang has been a difficult territory to rule ever since the days of the "Great Game", when Britain and Russia battled it out for influence in the strategic region. The Han Chinese now see Xinjiang as an inalienable part of the territory of China. But Xinjiang's eight million Uighurs – a Turkic-Muslim ethnic group that shares close linguistic and cultural links to Central Asia – see Xinjiang as their homeland and resent the millions of Han Chinese who have poured into the region in recent decades, a migration they describe as cultural imperialism driven by Beijing. A simmering separatist campaign in the region has occasionally boiled over into violence in the past 20 years.

The "strike hard" campaign began on 11 August and will last until 15 October, after the National Day holiday, as well as the annual China-Eurasia Expo, which is being held in Urumqi in the first week in September, the government said on its website. Security officers will comb Xinjiang's cities 24 hours a day, especially public areas such as stations, markets and business districts, carrying out identity checks and searches.

Earlier this month, Beijing deployed its élite Snow Leopard Commandos to Xinjiang. This fearsome special force, which is part of the People's Armed Police, looked after the anti-terrorist part of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is specially trained in counter-terrorism.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam