A six-year-old ethnic Uyghur boy has been missing for 11 days in China's troubled Xinjiang region amid speculations he may have been shot when police personnel opened fire and killed seven Uyghurs, who were with him and were branded by the Chinese authorities as terrorists, local villagers said.
Social groups have demanded that the authorities explain the boy's whereabouts after officials charged that he had thrown stones at police personnel involved in the Dec. 28 incident, in which a senior police officer was also killed, reportedly after being stabbed by one of the Uyghurs.
Some villagers speculated that the boy may have been shot and possibly killed in the clash that occurred in Mukuyla township, Guma (in Chinese, Pishan) county, Hotan prefecture.
The boy's mother had confirmed that he was with the group of Uyghurs involved in the confrontation with the police.
Five other Uyghur children are still in police custody following the incident.
“Our [ruling Chinese Communist] party secretary Deng Jiaojun said at a meeting that a six-year-old boy took part in the standoff and threw stones at police. At the beginning I could not believe my ears, but Deng repeated and emphasized that point a few times during the meeting,” said Buzeynep, head of the Mukuyla Women’s Union.
The party secretary made the remarks at a meeting alongside the mayor and deputy mayor the day after the incident.
Chinese authorities have classified the case as terrorism, saying the Uyghur group had taken two hostages and stabbed the county's deputy police chief, Adil Abduveli, to death.
“Deng Jiaojun mentioned that a six-year-old child took part in the standoff,” village committee head Turahmet Mijit said.
“Among the public there is speculation that a six-year-old child was … shot on the spot. Some people say the police accidentally killed the six-year-old in the incident and produced a story about how he was throwing stones to cover or excuse their mistake,” Turahmet Mijit said.
Asked about the atmosphere in his village since the incident, he said there was no sign of unrest, except dissatisfaction that officials had not turned over the bodies of those killed and freed the children.
"Everything is OK. There is no sign of any potential standoff since the incident, just a few people complaining that the dead bodies have not yet been returned to the families. I believe that our police officers can convince them not to disturb public order during this sensitive time," he said.
Six of the seven Uyghurs killed by police in the incident, according to village committee heads in Mukuyla township, were identified as: Abdumijit Seydehmet, 25; Abliz Seydehmet, 30; Hebibulla Abduqadir, 26; Ablikim Abduqadir, 40, all men; and Burabiye Abduqadir, 29, and Buzohre Seydehmet, 27, both women.
All of them are from Mukuyla, and according to one village committee head, at least three of them are siblings – Abdumijit, Buzohre, and Abliz Seydehmet.
The Xinjiang regional Communist Party propaganda office reported that on Dec. 28 police had shot and killed seven “terrorists” who had “taken two hostages,” but did not release further details about those killed.
Other official reports said that those killed were part of a group on their way to join Uyghur terrorist cells in neighboring Pakistan.
The Uyghur group was trying to flee China into Pakistan but apparently got lost along the way, according to state media reports. Residents alerted police when the group sought directions.
Guma county lies on the southern edge of the vast Taklamakan desert near the border with India and Pakistan.
Beijing has often said that its primary terrorism threat comes from the Xinjiang region where Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people, resent Chinese rule and controls on their religion, culture, and language.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Translated by Shohret Hoshur. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.