2014 Kunming attack

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2014 Kunming attack
Kunming Railway Station.jpg
Location Kunming, Yunnan
Coordinates 25°1′3″N 102°43′15″E / 25.01750°N 102.72083°E / 25.01750; 102.72083Coordinates: 25°1′3″N 102°43′15″E / 25.01750°N 102.72083°E / 25.01750; 102.72083
Date 1 March 2014
9:20 pm (China Standard Time)
Target Kunming Railway Station
Attack type
Knife attack
Deaths 33 (including four perpetrators)
Non-fatal injuries
143
Perpetrators 8[1]
Motive unclear[2]

The 2014 Kunming attack was a terrorist attack[3][4][5] in the Chinese city of Kunming, Yunnan, on 1 March 2014. The incident, targeted against civilians, left 29 civilians and 4 perpetrators[1] dead with more than 140 others injured.[4][6] The attack has been called a "massacre" by some news media.[7][8][9]

At around 9:20 pm local time, a group of eight knife-wielding men and women attacked passengers at the city's railway station.[10] Both male and female attackers were seen to pull out long-bladed knives and proceed to stab and slash passengers. At the scene, police killed four assailants[11][12] and captured one injured female. In the afternoon of 3 March, police announced that the six-man two-woman group had been neutralized after the arrest of three remaining suspects.[1][8]

No group or individual stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack.[13] Xinhua News Agency announced within hours of the incident that it was carried out by Xingjiang separatist terrorists,[14] while Time and The New York Times reported that Uyghur Muslims were involved in the attack.[3][15] The government of Kunming also said the attack had been linked to Xinjiang militants.[10][16] Police said they had confiscated a black, hand-painted East Turkestan flag at the scene.[17][18]

Attack[edit]

At 9:20 pm local time on 1 March 2014,[19] a group of individuals dressed in black clothes rushed into the square and ticket lobby of Kunming Railway Station and started to attack people indiscriminately.[20] Initial reports indicated there were ten assailants armed with knives and cleavers.[20]

The assailants killed 29 people and injured 143 (including seven policemen). Two security guards employed by the station were among the dead. The wounded were treated at 11 hospitals in Kunming.[21] Police initially attempted to subdue the attackers using tear gas shells but were unable to do so,[22] before shooting four suspects and arresting one. A wounded female suspect was detained at the scene and sent to a hospital.[23]

Yang Haifei, who was buying a ticket, said a group of people in black dress rushed into the station and started attacking people with knives. He was injured on the front and back of his torso. He also said that the attackers attacked the people like "maniacal swordsmen", and they mostly went for the head, neck and the shoulders to kill them.[24][not in citation given]

China News Service quoted a Mr. Tan, who remembered seven to eight attackers indiscriminately slashing people regardless of age, even stabbing the wounded on the floor until they were dead. He also saw a police officer carrying a child of about 5 years of age, with slashed pants and blood streaming down the legs.[25]

Initial response[edit]

According to China Central Television, a four-man SWAT team was on site within ten minutes of the start of the knife attack.[26] The sole member of the team with an automatic weapon shot five of the attackers in rapid succession, killing four of them, after two warning shots were fired.[26][27] After the incident, all trains originally scheduled to stop at Kunming Station were directed to stop at other places until 11:00 pm on 1 March when services gradually resumed.[23] Personnel at the Changshui International Airport also held an emergency meeting and tightened security though they stated that they were operating normally.[28] There were scattered news reports suggesting that similar attacks occurred in Dashuying in the Jinma subdistrict of Kunming, but local police stated that reports of "several places suffering attacks" were only rumors.[29]

The Red Cross Society of China sent a team to Yunnan in the morning of 2 March to support the Yunnan Red Cross Society in assisting with rescue efforts and to provide counseling to the relatives of victims and shocked civilians.[30]

On 2 March, armed police patrolled the area around Kunming Railway Station.[31][32] In the early morning, locals began to put flowers on the square in front of the station to mourn the dead.[33] At 13:00, the Kunming Police disclosed information on two suspects, one woman and one man, according to statements of witnesses.[34]

In the aftermath of the attack, heavy police presence was noted in Dashuying, low-income ghetto that houses many of Kunming's Uyghurs.[8] Kunming police interrogated members of the small local Uyghur Chinese community, questioning them at gunpoint.[35]

Yunnan's Communist Party Secretary Qin Guangrong said on 4 March that he had targeted sufficient resources to help the victims, who would not have to bear medical costs. Emergency services had processed the injured, and compensation arrangements were being discussed.[36] Qin said that the absence of clear threat up to that point meant terrorism prevention had not been a high priority in Yunnan. He admitted to inadequacies in resources, policing and intelligence gathering.[36]

The attackers[edit]

On 3 March the Ministry of Public Security announced that police had arrested three suspects and said that an eight-person terrorist group was responsible for the attack,[1][8][37][38] the leader of which was named Abdurehim Kurban.[note 1] However, Voice of America said four days after the attack that there had been scant information from official sources as to the identities, or even evidence that the attackers were Uyghurs.[39]

Qin Guangrong said that the captured wounded suspect had confessed to the crime. He asserted the group started off in Yunnan and originally planned to participate in "jihad" abroad. They allegedly tried unsuccessfully to leave the country from south Yunnan, and also from Guangdong. Unable to do so, they returned to Yunnan, and carried out the attack.[36][39] A source cited by Radio Free Asia seemed to confirm that they were Uyghurs, saying that the gang most likely originated from a township in Hotan, Xinjiang, where police had violently suppressed a demonstration against the closure of a mosque and the arrest of its imam in June 2013 that ended in 15 dead and 50 injured.[40] After witnessing the capture of fellow Uyghurs attempting to flee China into Laos, the group became desperate from being without identity papers and on the run from police.[40]

Reactions[edit]

Domestic[edit]

After the terrorist attack, CPC general secretary Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang assigned Meng Jianzhu, Secretary of the Central Politics and Law Commission to oversee the investigation.[41] There was some coverage in the regional press; local Kunming Times carried the story on its front page. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) noted that the China Central Television evening news programme did not report the attack; other national media kept the news item out of the headlines. Coverage was scant in the Southern Metropolis Daily in Guangzhou and the Yangtse Evening Post.[42][43] And whilst China Daily published appeals by Chinese social media users to "stop circulating bloody pictures",[44] microblogged and social media-hosted images of the carnage were swiftly deleted by censors.[42][43] On the other hand, Some Sina Weibo users started referring to the incident as our "9-11"; the official English language daily newspaper Global Times also said that "a nationwide outrage has been stirred... [by] China's '9-11'".[45][46] Jin Canrong of Renmin University suggested the way forward would be to de-emphasise Uyghur ethnicity and try to instil a greater sense of "Chineseness", stressing equal obligations and rights as Chinese citizens, while Barry Sautman, a China expert at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology suggested widening the preferential policies and granting Xinjiang Uyghurs greater autonomy.[47][48]

The SCMP noted that the attack seemed to have been timed to occur on the eve of the second session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.[42] Lü Xinhua, spokesman for the conference denounced the attack as a serious violent terrorist attack planned and organized by terrorist elements from Xinjiang.[49] This assertion has been echoed by officials in Kunming.[50]

The state-run People's Daily accused Western media of ambivalence and failing to state unequivocally that the attack was an act of terrorism, saying "These media are always the loudest when it comes to anti-terrorism, but in the Kunming train station terrorist violence they lost their voice and spoke confusedly, making people angry" and named American news outlets CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post as examples.[43] An article in the New York Times suggested that the Chinese state's attempt to have the world use the term "terrorism" may be to ensure that the international community does not see the attacks as the result of what critics say are China's repressive policies in Xinjiang.[43]

A Legal Daily video clip that broadcast on CCTV News on 3 March featured an interview with the SWAT marksman who was responsible for shooting five of the attackers and applauded his heroism. The officer said that as the assailants rushed towards him ignoring warning shots fired, he shot the five in about 15 seconds "without thinking".[26][27] Sautman said that the government may have wanted to "show that there was also successful resistance to terrorists and to put a human face on that resistance."[27]

International[edit]

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council separately both strongly condemned the attack.[51][52] Many countries around the world condemned the attack, and expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences.[43][53][54] Dilxat Rexit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress deplored the attacks, and urged the Chinese government to "ease systematic repression".[55] The Diplomat pointed to use of the comparison to 9–11 as referring not so much to the scale of the attack but the effect that this would have on the nations' psyche, saying "there are hints that it may have a similar effect on the way China conceptualizes and deals with terrorism".[45] An academic at the National University of Singapore warned of a very significant impact of the incident on the Chinese public as the attack took place in the heart of China, and not at the periphery, making the people more inclined to support the adoption of a more hard-line approach towards Xinjiang or Uyghurs, thus accelerating the cycle of repression and violence.[47][48]

Rebiya Kadeer, President of the World Uyghur Congress, called on the Chinese government to rationally handle the attacks and "not to demonize Uighur people as enemies of the state". The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang condemned the WUC as "an anti-China separatist organization", said that the WUC "cannot represent Uygur people" and criticized "(Kadeer) has showed her ulterior political motive by linking the terrorist incidents at Kunming together with a particular ethnic".[56]

The Daily Telegraph noted that this is the first occasion when Uyghurs have been blamed for perpetrating an attack of such magnitude outside of Xinjiang.[57] Adjunct professor of Sinology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Willy Lam said that official figures indicate violent conflicts appear to be on the increase. Lam cited the absence of a mechanism for airing grievances and dialogue between the aggrieved and the authorities is contributing to the increase in those resorting to violence.[57] The Analects column of The Economist observed that although the alleged group leader's name suggests he may be an Uyghur, this would be difficult to verify in a country where media are state-controlled and officials tightly control information flows. It responded to Chinese commentators who criticised outsiders for not immediately accepting official Chinese assertion of an act of politically motivated terrorism by Xinjiang separatists, saying: "But China, which prefers to play down the role of its policies in Xinjiang in generating discontent, has long sought to discredit its Uighur critics by linking them to terrorism".[20] The Economist also mentioned "Chinese oppression in Xinjiang" that "hit at the heart of Uighur identity" as a factor in the escalating violence, including: "students are banned from fasting during Ramadan, religious teaching for children is restricted, and Uighur-language education is limited".[58] Yet according to Dawn, China only discourages fasting for Uighur Muslims and encourage people to “eat properly for study and work” but "don'’t force anyone to eat during Ramadan".[59] Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, said there had been intelligence failure. He estimated that "in the last 12 months there have been over 200 attacks [in Xinjiang], maybe even more. It is getting worse".[15]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Abdurehim Kurban: Uyghur: ئابدۇرېھىم قۇربان‎, ULY: Abdurëhim Qurban; Chinese: 阿不都热依木·库尔班; pinyin: Ābùdūrèyīmù·Kù'ěrbān

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