Sixteen people were killed when rioters attacked police as they were detaining suspects in China’s restive northwest province of Xinjiang, according to a news portal controlled by the local government.
Two police and 14 rioters were killed, the article on Tianshannet.com.cn said without citing anyone. Two suspects were detained in the attack, which occurred in Shufu county of Xinjiang’s Kashgar region, according to the article.
The episode marked the latest outburst of violence in Xinjiang, a province beset by tensions between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority and ethnic Han Chinese, whom the government has encouraged to migrate there. China has linked a Uighur militant group founded in Xinjiang to an October incident in which a vehicle rammed into a crowd near Tiananmen Square, killing the three occupants and two bystanders.
Asked about today’s violence at a regular briefing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said a mob “attacked Chinese public security forces with explosive devices.”
“In the Xinjiang region people are looking forward to a happy life,” Hua said. “A handful of terrorist forces attempt to sabotage peace and stability.”
The World Uyghur Congress, a Munich-based group that advocates giving Uighurs a democratic way to determine their political future, said in October that it’s concerned the Tiananmen explosion will incite a “fierce state crackdown” in the region.
In a speech in Washington in November, World Uyghur Congress President Rebiya Kadeer said “I firmly believe there will come a day when we will establish an independent republic again,” according to an article on the website of Radio Free Asia.
The central government in Beijing faces occasional challenges to its power from Uighurs, who make up less than half of Xinjiang’s population of about 22 million. Unrest in the city of Urumqi in 2009 killed almost 200 people.