Knife-wielding assailants stormed the Kunming railway station in southeastern China on Saturday, resulting in almost 200 casualties. According to Chinese state media, there were more than ten assailants who were dressed in black and were both men and women. The attack is said to be the most sophisticated yet that has ever occurred outside of the northwestern province of Xinjiang. The assault is the second time in four months that separatists from Xinjiang have carried out a complex and coordinated attack outside their home region.
The attacks come at an awkward time for new prime minister Xi Jinping, as political leaders in Beijing prepare for Wednesday’s annual meeting of the nominal legislature where Xi’s government will deliver its first one year work-report. Xinjiang province is home to the perennially troublesome ethnic minority group the Uighurs, upon whom the attack was blamed. Uighur nationalists have long agitated against the Chinese government’s rule, and in response the Chinese government has placed certain restrictions on them that are not unknown in the west – women are forbidden to wear head scarves and men are required to shave their beards if they want government jobs. These objections reached even the Western media when authorities seized a prominent Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti from his home. Separatists in the region who seek full independence from China call Xinjiang province “East Turkestan.”
Violence is nothing new in Xinjiang. Riots and ethnic clashes in Xinjiang reached its peak in 2009, causing roughly 200 deaths. Even the United States is careful to not to engage China too much over the Uighurs. The World Uighur Congress which is located in Washington, DC is headed by a Northern Virginia resident Rebiya Kadeer, who has accused Beijing of concocting attacks to keep Xinjiang within its grasp. Despite the trouble, there are very good reasons why the Chinese government puts up with these attacks – and they have to do with the new Chinese oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan that run through the province and into the rest of the country.
- Sporadic violence continued in India’s troubled region of Kashmir, as two policemen were gunned down by suspected separatist forces. Though no group has yet claimed the attacks, the violence represents another in a series of violent incidents that have previously led the Indian government to institute curfews and disable internet access in the northwestern Indian region. The events of yesterday don’t inherently constitute a major incident, but do suggest that unrest is growing in the region after more than 10 years of relative calm.
- President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan recently issued a statement that puts the total number of Afghan soldiers and police officers killed inside of Afghanistan at 13,000, a figure that greatly exceeds previous estimates. If accurate, the figure also shows that Afghan lives were lost at a rate of 4:1 in comparison to that of international coalitions, which list their losses at 3,425. The numbers also substantiated additional reports stating that violence has been increasing over the last few years, including violence towards women. As the complete withdrawal of international forces draws nearer, questions arise over what will become of classes, such as the burgeoning Afghan middle class, and vulnerable groups such as women.
- The Russian occupation of Crimea continues. As rhetoric emanating from governments in Europe and the United States becomes increasingly acerbic, President Putin of Russia affirmed that he has “no intention” of annexing Crimea and that, up until now; there has been no need to resort to violence in the Ukrainian Crimean. Reports of sanctions and much alluded to political “costs” have been sharply rebuked by the Kremlin, who refer to a letter from impeached President Victor Yanukovych citing the persecution of Russians in Ukraine as a legitimate motivation to occupy the Crimea.
- The Kazakh government has reaffirmed its intent to reform its own banking sector. Kazakh Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov stated that among the country’s priorities is to address and eliminate nonperforming loans (NPLs). The initiative is designed to motivate banks to increase the quality of its lending operations and curb the growth of nonperforming loans in the future.