Headline-grabbing “people’s war” on terrorism is a nationwide crackdown designed to show that president Xi Jinping’s Communist Party is taking charge
Thousands had packed the stands at the home of Yining FC but there was to be no football that morning.
Instead, as the sun rose high above the stadium and locals huddled under pink and purple umbrellas, a convoy of open-backed trucks rolled on to the Astroturf pitch and delivered an unusual cargo: 55 handcuffed prisoners flanked by rifle-toting guards.
From a platform high above, Communist Party leaders delivered the verdicts they hoped would send a clear message to the “rampant and unruly” criminals they had come to condemn.
All were declared guilty of charges related to separatism and terrorism. Three were sentenced to death for using knives and axes to slaughter the wife and two young daughters of a computer recycler rumoured to have discovered extremist material on a discarded hard drive.
“It was a grand scene,” recalled one witness to the Cultural Revolution-style public “trial”, a 50-year-old builder who, like many The Telegraph spoke to in this remote and unsettled city on China’s border with Kazakhstan, declined to be named. “More than 7,000 people came to see.”
China has witnessed three major terrorist incidents in the past 10 months: knife and bomb attacks on civilians that have killed more than 70 people and been blamed on Islamist extremists from the western province of Xinjiang, home to the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighur minority.
Those headline-grabbing attacks have led Beijing to declare the “people’s war” on terrorism, a high-profile, nationwide crackdown designed to show that president Xi Jinping’s Communist Party is taking charge.
The recent terrorist strikes — first in Beijing, then in Kunming and finally in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital — have prompted a powerful response. Hundreds of suspects have been arrested and more than a dozen executed. Heavily armed troops can now be seen on the streets of major cities.
But nowhere has felt the impact more intensely than the remote villages, towns and cities of Xinjiang; places such as Yining, a border city of about 600,000 inhabitants, nearly half of whom are Muslim Uighurs.
Yining, which Uighurs call Ghulja, is one of the key fronts in the “people’s war”, which was officially declared following a May 22 attack on a market in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s provincial capital.
Black-clad agents with 4ft bayonets and flak jackets guard the airport and sandbags block part of the road into town.
Armed troops have flooded the city centre, mounting roadblocks and metal barricades at all major intersections, and petrol stations have been sealed off with red and white metal blockades.
Bag checks are now compulsory at restaurants, shops have been ordered to close early and cars are not allowed within 650ft of schools. Yining’s civilian population has also been recruited to the “people’s war”, with thousands joining a volunteer army of “red guards” given the task of searching cars and snitching on suspect locals.
“The terrorists are madly ferocious and inhumane,” Huang Sanping, the regional Communist Party boss, told one such summit. “We must adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards them, landing heavy and merciless blows with an iron first, cracking down on their terror activities with a thunderous posture and extinguishing their arrogant menace.”
Another official warned that the city faced a “life or death” struggle against extremism.
Schools have introduced “anti-evil religion” classes for tens of thousands of students and staged song and dance contests featuring routines entitled Hello, Motherland!, Sing out loud about ethnic unity! and Who says our homeland isn’t great?
All over the city, colourful propaganda billboards feature pictures of smiling and dancing ethnic minorities alongside slogans such as “Protect Ethnic Unity: Build a harmonious Yining”.
“The atmosphere is tense,” said Ma Weilong, a 22-year-old shopkeeper on Bordeaux Shopping Street, a new suburban housing estate. “People are on edge.”
Mr Ma, who is Han Chinese, like more than 90 per cent of the country, said he had “many ethnic friends” and did not fear violence in his neighbourhood. He said: “People outside Xinjiang are afraid of Uighur people and we distance ourselves a bit from them in Yining, unless we know them well.”
Members of the Uighur community said they feared further ostracism, and distanced themselves from the recent attacks. “They [the terrorists] think differently to us. Perhaps they are the same as those people in Iraq,” said one woman.
Full article: Beijing assembles people’s army to crush China terrorists with an iron fist (The Telegraph)