'Terrorism' in China Linked to Hard-Line Policy on Dissent: Analysts


2014-05-07
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china-guangzhou-police-may-2014.jpg A police officer looks on as passengers walk on the square outside Guangzhou railway station on May 7, 2014, a day after six people were wounded in a knife attack at the station.
AFP

The target of nearly a dozen "terrorist" attacks in the past year, China is facing the consequences of decades of growing social inequality and hard-line suppression of government critics, analysts said.

China has seen 10 "terrorist incidents" in the past year that killed more than 30 people, including police officers, the official news agency Xinhua said, reporting on an official "blue paper" on terrorism released on Tuesday.

Recent terrorist attacks have spread across China, targeted government agencies and institutions, and tended to rely on very simple weapons, the agency said.

But according to Wuhan-based dissident Qin Yongmin, a co-founder of the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP), what the ruling Chinese Communist Party calls "terrorism" is actually dissent that has been given no other outlet and become violent.

"In today's China, the rapid rise of terrorist incidents ... is the product of increasingly acute social tensions, and the reason is quite simply that the Chinese state is itself a kind of terrorist regime," Qin commented on the government's report.

"Countless innocent people the length and breadth of the country are repeatedly detained suddenly just for complaining about the government or for expressing their opinions and views," he said.

"Such pressure gives rise to extreme conflicts; it doesn't resolve them."

Qin said his organization, the China Human Rights Observer, would study further the forms of public violence that the government calls terrorism.

"While we are of course opposed to acts of terrorism, we will be carrying out a detailed analysis of their root causes," Qin said.

Social instability

Xia Ming, political science lecturer at the College of Staten Island in New York, agreed, saying that the growing number of public incidents of violence are linked to the lack of a mechanism to resolve grievances and injustice.

"In the past few decades of economic growth, citizens haven't received the protection of the courts for their rights or from rising crime," Xia said. "This has led to a worsening domestic security situation in China."

He said the Communist Party treats all acts of popular anger as terrorism. "Actually, China's economic miracle and rise as an international power are built on huge social instability," Xia said.

He said the government's hard line against dissent is already backfiring, however.

"Whenever it is faced with violent protest against government actions, it designates such actions as terrorism," Xia said.

"China's hard-line policies ... treat all popular anger as acts of terrorism, and will escalate the problems of clashes between the people and the government."

Guangzhou attack


On Wednesday, authorities in the southern province of Guangdong stepped up security patrols in the wake of a knife attack that injured six people at Guangzhou's railway station on Tuesday, but gave scant new information about the single detained suspect.

"There is only one suspected attacker, who was injured by a police bullet and is still undergoing surgery in the hospital," the Guangzhou municipal police department said on its official Twitter-like account.

"This will be the last post made to our official Sina Weibo account on Wednesday," the tweet said.

However, Guangzhou-based writer Ye Du said many netizens are now assuming that the attacker was a member of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group from the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where a knife and suicide bomb attack left three people dead and 79 others injured last week.

A suspect named in official reports on the Urumqi railway station attack also appeared to be a Uyghur, judging from his name.

Reporting on the Guangzhou attack, the Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper made a comparison with the April 30 attack in Urumqi, which rocked the city as millions of people headed out for the Labor Day vacation and was blamed on "religious extremists."

It also cited a March 1 knife attack at a railway station in the southwestern city of Kunming that was blamed on Uyghur separatists.

A Guangzhou resident surnamed Huang said on Wednesday that he felt  his own safety could be affected by the growing number of public attacks in recent months.

But he said the government's security crackdowns have only targeted the effects and not the root causes of such violence.

"If you don't resolve the issue of inequality and oppression of ethnic minorities, but instead use technology to curb them, that's not a good way of solving the problem," Huang said.

"They should pay attention to the ethnic minorities' calls for more rights and more freedom, and allow them to enjoy more of the fruits of economic development," he said.

Reported by Yang Fan and He Ping for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Yang Jian for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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