Though July’s anniversary of last year’s ethnic unrest in Urumqi passed with heavily enforced peacefulness, the tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang have not gone away. A bomb blast in Aksu, south west of Urumqi, has killed seven and injured 14, four seriously. According to a local official, a Uiqhur man drove a tricycle carrying the explosive device into a crowd at a busy street intersection.
In June, police said they had broken up a gang behind a number of attacks in Xinjiang over the past couple of years, including an attack in Kashgar in 2008 in which 16 Chinese border police were killed. The 10 men arrested were said to have been planning further attacks. A cache of explosives was seized.
Beijing has been fighting a low level civil war in Xinjing for decades against the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking group of Muslims whom they accuse of being ‘separatists’ led by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which is branded a terrorist organization though scapegoat terrorists would be a better description of an group that is a marginal threat at best. Most of the 8 million Uighurs in Xinjiang consider Beijing just uses ETIM as an excuse to crack down those who complain that their culture is being marginalized by Han immigration.
The response to last July’s riots that left nearly 200 dead was tighter security, mass arrests and billions of yuan poured into economic development in the province. The trouble is that the underlying causes of Uighur dissatisfaction can neither be repressed nor bought off.