BEIJING (Reuters) - More than a hundred people, riding motorbikes and wielding knifes, attacked a police station in China’s ethnically divided western region of Xinjiang, state media said on Saturday, in the latest unrest to hit the restive region in the past week.
The attack in the remote desert city of Hotan, a heavily ethnic Uighur area, comes two days after the region’s deadliest unrest in four years that resulted in the deaths of 35 people. China called the incident a “terrorist attack”.
Xinjiang is home to the mainly Muslim Uighur people who speak a Turkic language. Many of them chafe at what they call Chinese government restrictions on their culture, language and religion. China says it grants Uighurs wide-ranging freedoms and accuses extremists of separatism.
The animosity between the majority Han Chinese and Muslim Uighurs poses a major challenge for China’s Communist Party leaders. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who took office in March, has called for the unity of all ethnic groups in China.
In the latest incident, “troublemakers” gathered at religious venues before riding on motorcycles to attack a police station in the city’s Moyu county, said the Global Times, owned by Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily.
Authorities are counting the number of casualties and are searching for suspects, said the Global Times.
In a separate incident, some 200 people attempted to “incite trouble” at a major shopping area in Hotan, the Global Times said. The newspaper said police diffused the situation.
Chinese authorities have stepped up security in the regional capital Urumqi, the Global Times said.
In a sign of the gravity of the situation, Xinjiang’s top party chief Zhang Chunxian said: “We should be clearly aware of the complex and acute nature of the long-term struggle against separatism,” according to the Xinjiang Daily, the official newspaper of the region.
“For those who dare to defy the law, the criminals who engage in violent terrorist activities have to be punished. We can’t tolerate them, we have to hold no punches,” the People’s Daily said in a front-page editorial.
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry