At least 16 people were killed in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang on Sunday in the latest spurt of violence between police and the local community of Uyghurs who complain of discrimination on ethnic and religious lines.
The incident occurred in Kashgar, in the remote southwestern part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), in Shufu county.
According to sketchy official details, a team of police officers was attacked by a mob armed with explosives and knives during an ongoing raid on Sunday night to nab a criminal.
Two police officers were killed and at least 14 attackers were shot dead.
The government often gives sparse details about incidents in Xinjiang and it is difficult to independently verify information coming out of the region.
On Monday, when asked for more details, foreign ministry, spokesperson, Hua Chunying instead said it was the government’s duty to protect people from criminals
“China is ruled by law. To protect people’s life and security and to crackdown on crime is the sacred duty of the Chinese state,” Hua said at the daily press briefing.
“About mobs who attacked the Chinese security personnel with explosive devices and knives, it again shows the anti-human and anti- society nature of the groups,” she added.
She said that the people in Xinjiang are looking to lead a happy life but a handful of people were attempting to destabilise the region and hamper development.
Beijing has consistently brushed aside allegations of discrimination against the Muslim Uyghur community, who have a distinct culture and language from the rest of the China, and blame unrest in the region on a terrorist group based abroad.
While the Uyghurs are now a minority – after the majority Han community -- in the autonomous region of about 22 million people, they are still the majority in Kashgar and surrounding areas.
In November, 11 people were killed during an attack on a police station in Kashgar prefecture in a township called Selibuya.
The latest rounds of violence in the increasingly restive region comes after Beijing blamed members of the Muslim Uyghur community from Xinjiang of carrying out a “terrorist attack” at Tiananmen Square that left five people dead and over 40 injured.