A Uyghur village secretary for the ruling Chinese Communist Party has been murdered and a Uyghur man shot dead in a township in northwestern China’s troubled Xinjiang province, adding to a spate of violence in recent months, according to local police and officials.
Jume Tohtiniyaz, the Communist Party’s secretary for Ghaldir village in Aksu city’s Karatal township, was stabbed to death on the night of Jan. 22 by “separatists” acting on behalf of ethnic minority Uyghurs languishing in jail for unknown offenses, the authorities said.
Two suspects have been arrested over the killing of the official, who was known for supporting strict pro-government policies.
“They said that two suspects entered his house and murdered him,” Enver Ghoji, party chief of Tohtiniyaz’s neighboring No. 18 village in Karatal, told RFA’s Uyghur Service.
In a separate incident a week later in neighboring Dolan village, police conducting house-to-house security checks just before midnight of Jan. 29 shot and killed Qurban Tursun, a father of two, saying he refused to allow them into his home.
Karatal police chief Wang Guochen said Tursun claimed his children would be “scared” if the police were allowed in and asked them to come the next day.
Tursun was armed with a knife after the police team entered his home by breaking down his door, he said.
Vice police chief Ghalipjan Emet, who shot and killed the suspect, said Tursun had recently been imprisoned for allegedly harboring a “separatist” in his home and authorities had conducted regular searches on his home since his release.
“He refused to cooperate, so we shot him,” Emet said, adding that he was merely complying with standard orders for the raid.
“They said if they do not cooperate then shoot, so we did.”
China has intensified a sweeping security crackdown against Uyghurs in recent months in Xinjiang, where according to official figures about 100 people are believed to have been killed since April—many of them Uyghurs accused by the authorities of terrorism and separatism.
In recent violence in Xinjiang—home to 10 million mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghurs—a set of explosions and a clash with police left 12 people dead in Aksu city’s neighboring Toksu (in Chinese, Xinhe) county on Jan. 24.
Critics say such violence has been fueled by oppressive Chinese policies and strict religious controls. Rights groups claim authorities exaggerate the threat from separatists and terrorists in the region to justify heavy-handed raids.
Authorities had stepped up house-to-house checks on targeted families in Karatal following the Toksu blasts, police said.
Communist Party village secretary Tohtiniyaz’s behavior in strictly enforcing religious policies and security policies had earned him some enemies among residents in the area, said Ghoji, who was informed about investigations into the murder in a meeting with Karatal officials.
“He was resolute in administering religious gatherings. He also closely cooperated with police in the operations of arresting key people in the village,” he said.
“I think for these reasons he made some enemies.”
Esqer Dawut, police chief of Ugen town in Toksu, said Tohtiniyaz’s two suspected attackers had told authorities they had killed Tohtiniyaz out of revenge for friends who had been sent to jail.
“During the interrogation they confessed that they killed him to take revenge for their jailed friends who suffered torture in prison,” he said.
Tensions high in Dolan
Tensions remained high in Dolan days after the raid in which Tursun was killed, Kartal township head Adiljan Turghun said.
“Since this incident, the situation in the town is tense. The administrative measures have been increased,” he said.
Emet said police had previously carried out checks on Tursun’s home once a week, but had started doing them more frequently following the violence in Toksu.
“The suspect [Tursun] had been jailed for hiding a separatist in his house. Since his release we were conducting checks on him every week,” according to Emet.
“When we went to his house he did not open up, saying that we had searched it yesterday so we did not have to check it again.”
Overseas Uyghur rights groups have decried heavy-handed security measures in Xinjiang and the use of community watch groups to police Uyghur neighborhoods, saying unlawful house searches conducted by the groups have led to the arbitrary use of lethal force by security personnel.
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.