2014 Kunming attack
|2014 Kunming attack|
|Part of Xinjiang conflict|
A view of Kunming Railway Station
|Date||1 March 2014
9:20 pm (China Standard Time)
|Target||Kunming Railway Station|
|Deaths||33 (including four perpetrators)|
|Perpetrators||East Turkestan Islamic Movement|
Number of participants
|Motive||Xinjiang conflict, Islamic extremism|
In the evening of March 1, 2014, a knife attack occurred inside the Kunming Railway Station in Kunming, Yunnan, China. At around 21:20, a group of 8 knife-wielding men and women attacked passengers at the city's railway station. Both male and female attackers pulled out long-bladed knives and stabbed and slashed passengers. At the scene, police killed four assailants and captured one injured female. The incident, targeted against civilians, left 29 civilians and 4 perpetrators dead with more than 140 others injured. 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.
No group or individual stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack. Xinhua News Agency announced within hours of the incident that it was carried out by Xinjiang separatist terrorists, while Time and The New York Times reported that Uyghur Muslims were involved in the attack. The government of Kunming also said the attack had been linked to Xinjiang militants. Police said they had confiscated a black, hand-painted East Turkestan flag at the scene.
At 21:20 on 1 March 2014, 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. Initial reports indicated there were ten assailants armed with knives and cleavers.
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. Police initially attempted to subdue the attackers using tear gas shells but were unable to do so, before shooting four suspects and arresting one. A wounded female suspect was detained at the scene and sent to a hospital.
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.[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 trousers and blood streaming down the legs.
According to China Central Television, a four-man SWAT team was on site within ten minutes of the start of the knife attack. 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. 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. Personnel at the Changshui International Airport also held an emergency meeting and tightened security though they stated that they were operating normally. 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.
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.
On 2 March, armed police patrolled the area around Kunming Railway Station. In the early morning, locals began to put flowers on the square in front of the station to mourn the dead. At 13:00, the Kunming Police disclosed information on two suspects, one woman and one man, according to statements of witnesses.
In the aftermath of the attack, heavy police presence was noted in Dashuying, low-income ghetto that houses many of Kunming's Uyghurs. Kunming police interrogated members of the small local Uyghur Chinese community, questioning them at gunpoint.
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. 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.
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, 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.
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. 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. 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.
The surviving wounded suspect, a pregnant woman, Patigul Tohti, and three men, Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad, who were accused of masterminding the attack and had been arrested while attempting to flee across the border two days before the attack, were tried for and convicted of murder and organizing and leading a terrorist organization in the Kunming City Intermediate People's Court. Tohti was sentenced to life in prison, while Ehet, Tohtunyaz, and Muhammad received death sentences, and were executed in March 2015.
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. 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. And whilst China Daily published appeals by Chinese social media users to "stop circulating bloody pictures", microblogged and social media-hosted images of the carnage were swiftly deleted by censors. 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'". 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.
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. Lü Xinhua, spokesman for the conference denounced the attack as a serious violent terrorist attack planned and organized by terrorist elements from Xinjiang. This assertion has been echoed by officials in Kunming.
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". 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."
Criticism of western media coverage
Following the event, many major western media outlets covering the event with the quotation marks around the word “terrorism,” some in the article’s headline, some in the body, and some in both. China accused Western commentators, with their focus on Uighur rights, of hypocrisy and double standards on terrorism.
Thousands of Chinese netizens criticized the United States government for refusing to identify the rampage as a terrorist attack. To illustrate the point, one such netizen remarked: “I express my condolences for the setting off of fireworks and burning incident at the Boston Marathon.” .
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.
To be noted, it is quite common for media to use quotation mark to report a possible terror attack, or using the terms "described as terrorist attack" in the early days of the event as the facts are unfolding. Similar description has been used in media regarding many other potential terror attack around the world. CNN removed the quotation mark on Mar 2nd, 1 day after the event, describing it as "deadly Kunming terror attacks".
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council separately both strongly condemned the attack. Many countries around the world condemned the attack, and expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences. Dilxat Rexit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress deplored the attacks, and urged the Chinese government to "ease systematic repression". 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". 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.
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".
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. 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. 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". 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". 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". 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".
- "Kunming terrorist attack suspects captured". Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "China separatists blamed for Kunming knife rampage". BBC News. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- "27 dead in knife attack at China train station". USA Today. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- "28 dead in Kunming rail station violence". China Daily. 1 March 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- "Is the Kunming Knife Attack China's 9-11?". The Diplomat. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- "Kunming train station 'terrorist' attack leaves dozens dead". CBC News (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). 1 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- "Chinese police 'solve' Kunming massacre". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- "Security Tightened in Kunming After Chinese Train Station Knife Attack". The Wire. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- Xinhua News Agency: Xinjiang separatists involved in the Kunming attack 新華社：昆明案涉新疆分離勢力 (Chinese)
- "Deadly Terrorist Attack in Southwestern China Blamed on Separatist Muslim Uighurs". Time. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- Jacobs, Andrew; Buckley, Chris (2 March 2014). "China Blames Xinjiang Separatists for Stabbing Rampage at Train Station". The New York Times
- Blanchard, Ben (1 March 2014). "China blames Xinjiang militants for station attack". Chicago Tribune. Reuters. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- 外交部：昆明暴恐事件现场确实发现了"东突"旗帜 [Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "East Turkestan" flag found at the scene of Kunming terrorist attack] (in Chinese). Phoenix Television. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- 警方搜出"疆独"分子旗帜和凶器 [Police uncovered flag and weapons used by "Xinjiang separatists"] (in Chinese). 2 March 2014.
- "Xi vows punishment on terrorists, careful rescue for victims". Xinhua News Agency. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- "Terror in Kunming". The Economist. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- 昆明火车站暴力恐怖案143名伤者中73人重伤 [73 civilians were seriously injured among all the 143 wounded during Kunming Railway Station Attack] (in Chinese). Sina News. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- 目击者:昆明警方使用催泪枪无效后击毙暴徒 [Witness: policemen shot and killed attackers after teargas warnings] (in Chinese). Sina News. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- 昆明火车站售票进站陆续恢复 [The ticket selling and train arrival of Kunming Railway Station are getting normal]. Yunnan Information (in Chinese). 1 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "Unidentified Assailant kills 27 at Kunming Railway Station in China". news.biharprabha.com. Indo-Asian News Service. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- 目击者讲述昆明暴力恐怖事件：老人小孩都不放过 [Witnesses Describe Kunming's Violent Terrorism Incident: Not Even Seniors and Children Were Spared]. China News Service (in Chinese). 2 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- "Officer tells of fight with terrorists". China Daily. 5 March 2014.
- "Police officer in Kunming attack hailed as a hero". The Straits Times. 5 March 2014.[dead link]
- 昆明长水机场提高安保级别 秩序正常 [Kunming Changshui Airport tightens its security while operation remains normal] (in Chinese). Phoenix Television. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- 警方称昆明"多地发生暴力事件"系谣传 [Police says that reports about "several places in Kunming suffering attacks" are rumors] (in Chinese). Sina News. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- 中国红十字会工作组 赴云南处理昆明暴力恐怖事件 [Team from the Red Cross Society of China went to Yunnan to deal with the attack] (in Chinese). NetEase News. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- 昆明火车站武警 持枪执勤 [Armed policemen are on duty near the railway station] (in Chinese). Sina Photo News. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "成都武警持枪在火车站执勤(组图)" [Armed policemen from Chengdu at the railway station (pictured)]. Sina News. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- 昆明市民在火车站广场献花悼念遇难者 [Kunming citizens presenting bouquets at the railway station to mourn the dead] (in Chinese). Sina News. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- 昆明暴恐案：警方公布两名暴徒基本信息 [Police publicized the information of two suspects during Kunming attack]. Jinghua Times (in Chinese). 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- Pomfret, James; Martina, Michael (3 March 2014). "China train station attack risks driving ethnic wedge deeper". Reuters.
- 昆明车站暴徒原想参加「圣战」辗转多地出不去 [Kunming Train Station's Assailants Originally Wanted To Participate in "Holy War", Could Not Leave After Trying in Multiple Places] (in Chinese). Sina Corp. China National Radio. 4 March 2014. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014.
- "Chinese Police Arrests 3 Suspects over Kunming Terrorist Attack". news.biharprabha.com. Indo-Asian News Service. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- 快讯：昆明恐袭事件三名暴徒街头被擒 [Express: three suspects of Kunming Terrorist Attack arrested] (in Chinese). Phoenix Television. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "Train Station Attackers Were Trying to Leave China for Jihad: Official". Voice of America (5 March 2014)
- "China Train Station Attackers May Have Acted 'in Desperation'" Radio Free Asia (3 March 2014)
- "Separatists accused of China stabbing spree". Al Jazeera. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- Chen, Andrea (2 March 2014). "While world reels in shock at Kunming attack, news is notably absent from china's front pages". South China Morning Post.
- Tatlow, Didi Kirsten (3 March 2014). "U.N. Security Council Condemns 'Terrorist Attack' in Kunming". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "27 dead in Kunming rail station violence". China Daily. Xinhua News Agency. 1 March 2014.
- Tiezzi, Shannon (4 March 2014). "Is the Kunming Knife Attack China’s 9-11?". The Diplomat.
- Beech, Hannah (1 March 2014). "Deadly Terrorist Attack in Southwestern China Blamed on Separatist Muslim Uighurs". Time.
- AFP (2 March 2014). " Crackdown after China killings may backfire, say experts". Times of Oman.
- Saint-Paul, Patrick (3 March 2014). "Pékin sous le choc du «11 Septembre chinois»". Le Figaro (French)
- "China to severely punish terrorist attackers: spokesman". China Daily. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- Ng, Teddy. "One female suspect in custody after 33 are killed in Kunming station massacre". Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- People's Daily Online, Mar 4, 2014 "Western media coverage of Kunming's terror attack shows sheer mendacity and heartlessness", March 4, 2014.
- Dawn, Yiqin Fu, Mar 5, 2014 "Chinese are angry at western media’s portrayal of the Kunming attack", March 5, 2014.
- BBC News, Kunming, John Sudworth, Mar 3, 2014 "Shock and anger after Kunming brutality", March 3, 2014.
- "UN chief slams 'terrible' attack at Chinese railway station". Business Recorder. 2 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- "Security Council condemns the terrorist attack at Chinese train station Kunming 'in the strongest terms'". 9 March 2014.
- "UN Security Council slams terrorist attack in southwest China". Xinhuanet. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "International community condemns terrorist attack in China". Xinhua News Agency. 2 March 2014.
- Paunescu, Delia (2 March 2014). "China's Latest Knife Attack Raises Security Questions". New York. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- Chinese Foreign Ministry: WUC cannot represent Uygur people, BBC news (Chinese)
- Keating, Fiona (2 March 2014). "Kunming Massacre: Who are Xinjiang Separatists China Blames for Attack?" [VIDEO]. International Business Times.
- "China’s restless West: The burden of empire". The Economist
- "China discourages fasting for Uighur Muslims". Dawn. Pakistan. Associated Press. 3 August 2012.