A Brief History
On March 1, 2014, a mass stabbing occurred at Kunming, Yunnan, China in the railway station, a bloody affair that left 35 people dead and another 143 wounded. The perpetrators were a group of 8 Xinjiang separatists, according to analysis of evidence including an East Turkestan flag found at the scene and Uyghur Muslims were involved.
The group of 6 men and 2 women were linked by the Chinese authorities to the separatist movement of Xinjiang, an autonomous region of China in the far Northwest portion of the country largely peopled by ethnic Turkic people that practice the Muslim religion, called Uyghurs (or Uygurs or Uigurs or other spellings). Draconian efforts by the Chinese government to curb protests and separatist sentiment has resulted in many persons being jailed or sent to “reeducation camps,” fairly effectively curbing the movement for independence as there has been very little separatist activity since 2017.
In typical Chinese fashion, the government has been stingy with facts about the Kunming Railway Station Massacre, and although they arrested the perpetrators have had little to offer as proof of the involvement of Xinjiang separatists.
When police responded to reports of the ongoing attack by people using knives and cleavers, they used tear gas projectiles and eventually real ammunition to kill 4 attackers and wound another, who was taken into custody. The other 3 attackers were later arrested as they attempted to flee across the border. Witnesses said the attackers were targeting whichever persons were closest to them, regardless of age or gender, and that the murderers would sometimes continue to stab victims even after the victim had fallen to the ground.
Authorities put heavy police pressure on nearby neighborhoods that contained Uyghur populations, both in patrolling the areas and heavy handed questioning of local Uyghurs. While the Chinese government offered medical care and compensation for victims of the attack and began an investigation into the causes and circumstances surrounding the incident, little was said on Chinese media about the attack! Chinese authorities also attempted to curb citizens from circulating rumors, accounts and bloody photographs on the internet. Ever eager to spin the story in the most favorable light to the Chinese government, authorities complained about Western news reports that included quotation marks around the word “terrorism” and “terrorist” regarding the attack. The Chinese government considered the attack an act of terror, while Western news agencies and governments implied the attack was not really terrorism, but a response to internal Chinese policies geared against the Uyghurs. Some Western news agencies later relented and called the attack a terror event.
The Kunming attack had been the worst of the Uyghur related acts of violence in the few years leading up to the event, as many as 200 acts of violence that seemed to be increasing up until the Kunming incident. Uyghur related violence has abated since this deadly attack.
As we have pointed out on this site, determined murderers and attackers do not necessarily need firearms to create death and havoc, as bombs, motor vehicles, fire and other hand weapons such as knives, swords and clubs can be used to kill and maim. Obviously, or so it would seem to us, the real problem is people, not the weapons they use.
Question for students (and subscribers): Are you familiar with the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Brophy, David. Uyghur Nation: Reform and Revolution on the Russia-China Frontier. Harvard University Press, 2016.
Roberts, Sean. The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority. Princeton University Press, 2020.