Beijing offers bounty for information on Uighur separatists

Relations between Uighurs and Han Chinese migrants fraught

A Uighur man and his son in front of the Id Kah Mosque, China’s largest mosque, in Kashgar, Xinjiang Province. The imam of the mosque was recently stabbed to death by suspected  militants. Photograph: Getty Images

A Uighur man and his son in front of the Id Kah Mosque, China’s largest mosque, in Kashgar, Xinjiang Province. The imam of the mosque was recently stabbed to death by suspected militants. Photograph: Getty Images

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 19:23

China is offering over 300 million yuan (€36 million) as bounty for tip-offs to aid the government’s crackdown on violent separatists in the restive region of Xinjiang, the homeland of mainly Muslim Uighurs.

Some 4.23 million yuan (€510,000) was paid out to individuals and government officials who helped with the killing of nine people Beijing believes are terrorists in Hotan prefecture last week. An event to hand out the bounty money was attended by more than 10,000 officials and local residents, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

There are 10 million Turkic-speaking Uighurs in Xinjiang, and in recent years relations between them and the Han Chinese migrants entering the province have become fraught.

While the Chinese government insists it is bringing progress to a backward region and boosting it economically, many Uighurs feel the Han are colonising the region and overwhelming their people and culture. Human rights groups accuse Beijing of cultural and religious repression.

‘Iron bastion’

Local authorities say more than 30,000 civilians joined in the manhunt on Friday, and cadres at the event called on the public from all ethnic groups to “build an iron bastion against violent terrorist crimes”.

The Hotan incident came days after a violent attack in Shache county, or Yarkand in Uighur, in Kashgar prefecture left 37 civilians and 59 “terrorists” dead, Xinhua reported

“We walked in rows into the field, about a thousand square metres in size. Then we heard something move. When we were about 15 metres away, one suspect threw a small explosive. The black smoke could be seen from far away. We called the police right away,” one local villager told Xinhua.

A police officer called Jume said that one of the suspects had taken out a knife and stabbed him.

“I could have been hurt without my protective vest. Then another took out a longer knife and swung at me. I dodged. My sleeve was torn and there’s cut on my arm. It also broke my walkie-talkie,” said Jume.

Separatist group

Xinhua said the suspected leader of the group, Abdul Rahman, was among the nine suspects killed, and police said they had found flags of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which Beijing accuses of separatist acts, flags and bomb-making tools and materials.

“This terrorist gang was found to be influenced by extremist thought, and were collaborating with extremist forces and had accepted the orders of Holy War,” Xinhua reported.

This year has seen a number of attacks by separatists.

Twenty-nine people were killed and 140 injured when eight knife-wielding assailants attacked the main train station in the southwestern city of Kunming in March.

Police shot four of the attackers dead.