Kunming attack shows spread of terror threat

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-2 20:03:01

Kunming, the capital of Southwestern China's Yunnan Province, was soaked in blood Saturday night. A group of attackers dressed in black wielded long knives and went on the rampage at Kunming railway station, stabbing passengers and railway staff indiscriminately. The local government has defined this horrible incident as a terrorist attack launched by extremists from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

If the Tiananmen car crash incident that happened in October 2013 marked the first sign that terrorism was starting to trickle into China's central and eastern areas, this massacre can clarify that the eastward expansion of Xinjiang terrorism is accelerating.

As of now, Xinjiang is still the area which is most afflicted by terrorism in China, but the frequency and expansion of attacks has demonstrated that terrorism is no longer a casual problem but a regular issue in Xinjiang. It also signals and sets alarm for the rest of China, especially large cities, that terrorism has already crept in. This new tendency pushes China's anti-terrorism efforts into a much more severe and demanding situation.

The focus of anti-terrorism efforts will remain in Xinjiang in the near future, but the sporadic attacks in cities of eastern areas show that China must establish a nationwide program and coordinate efforts all over the country as soon as possible.

This means other cities and provinces, which were previously believed to be unlikely to be targeted by terrorism, must prepare for any possible attacks by terrorists.

Xinjiang is not dealing with this issue alone any more. Chinese citizens, no matter where they live and who they are, need to build the awareness that terrorism is not far away from anyone.

The whole community has to work together and lay out a mental frontline to fend off risks and possible threats of terrorism.

Anti-terrorism is no longer just a top-down endeavor led by the central government, but requires more strength and involvement from local governments and the grass roots. A lack of vigilance and precautions will probably allow attacks to recur.

Apart from the shift of the national anti-terrorism strategy to a bigger vision, it is also necessary to make sure the public can have an objective view on these attacks, especially when the terrorists come from Xinjiang.

The public must realize that a handful of extremists are far from qualified to represent tens of millions of local residents in Xinjiang. It is not only an irrational and biased mindset to put the blame on the entire Uyghur community or the Muslim world, but the idea will also abet and aid those separatists and terrorists who are desperate to take advantage of ethnic and religious conflicts.

These separatists and terrorists hope to act as spokespeople for the Uyghur people or for Islam. This is the last direction that public opinion should take.

The best way to avoid this risk is to make sure media reports and official exposures of these attacks are open and transparent, and are all based on facts and detailed investigation. The real intentions and the nature of the terrorist groups must be revealed to the public.

Only by doing so can suspicions be reduced to a minimum. There has already been some progress, but more needs to be done.

These legitimate understandings concerning terrorism and ethnic and religious issues cannot just be infused into the mind of every individual. This will be a long-term endeavor, and public education and government publicity teams cannot take all the responsibility.

The progress of a delicate issue like this will be tricky and curved, and it can only be achieved with the all-out development of Chinese society as a whole.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Liu Zhun based on an interview with Li Wei, director of the Institute of Security and Arms Control Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. liuzhun@globaltimes.com.cn

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