Chinese leader Xi Jinping steps up anti-terrorist rhetoric

Speech comes after knife-wielding attackers kill 29 and injure 140 in Kunming

During a visit to the restive region of Xinjiang, president Xi Jinping described the police as China's "fists and daggers" in the country's fight against terrorism, just days after regular police in many Chinese cities started wearing firearms.

Mr Xi is stepping up his anti-terrorist rhetoric after a number of deadly attacks, including one in the southwestern city of Kunming in March in which 29 people were killed and 140 injured by knife-wielding attackers.

“The situation is grim and complicated. The local level police stations are fists and daggers . . . the Kashgar region is the front line in anti-terrorism and maintaining social stability,” Mr Xi told paramilitary police in the Silk Road town of Kashgar in western Xinjiang, a border outpost where authorities say members of a Muslim minority are waging a violent separatist campaign.

Mr Xi urged the soldiers to "care for each other, help each other, study together, maintain national unity and guard the borderland of China, " the Xinhua news agency reported.


There are 10 million Turkic-speaking Uighurs in Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia, and in recent years relations between them and the Han Chinese migrants coming into the province have become more and more difficult.

Many Uighurs complain they are denied economic opportunities amid a major inflow of Han migrants.

China has vowed to crack down on militants seeking to establish an independent state called East Turkestan, but it has also emphasised ethnic unity.

The People's Liberation Army Daily ran photographs of Mr Xi inspecting riot gear, including some formidable looking truncheons, restraining equipment and spikes. "Sweat more in peacetime to bleed less in wartime," he said.

There were also pictures of the president seated with Uighurs, holding hands, and he was quoted encouraging students to seize the opportunity to learn both Chinese and the Uighur language.

Mr Xi has made a number of high-profile statements on terror in recent weeks.

Last week he told a high-ranking Communist Party study session he would “resolutely crack down on terrorism and secessionism with high intensity to safeguard national security”.

China must “make terrorists become like rats scurrying across a street, with everybody shouting ‘beat them!’ ” Xi said, urging the public to build a “wall of bronze and iron” to fight against terrorism.

He visited the Special Police Academy of the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, where he observed training of armed police officers, including a simulated anti-hijack mission.

During the inspection, he presented a new flag to the “Falcon Commando Unit,” an elite police counter-terror brigade under the academy.

The most obvious change since the Kunming attack is that China will deploy more armed police across the country to respond to emergencies and combat violent crime.

More than 1,000 policemen started carrying revolvers on patrol in Shanghai for the first time in six decades and police with handguns will patrol city streets as well as railway stations, airports, shopping malls, schools and hospitals, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing