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After a deadly explosion in China’s restive western region of Xinjiang this week, few observers were surprised when China’s government quickly blamed separatists for an act of terrorism.|
The U.S. government a day later called on Beijing to provide more proof about such claims.
Released on Thursday, the China section of the U.S. State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism didn’t deal with the latest railway station explosion in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi.
But it took issue with the limited information provided by China’s government following other deadly incidents that authorities likewise blamed on separatists. Those include the careering of a jeep into a crowd near the portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square last October; the three people inside—ethnic Uighurs from Xinjiang–then set the vehicle on fire, according to official Chinese accounts.
“Chinese authorities labeled several incidents of violence involving members of the Uighur minority as acts of terrorism,” said the State Department report. “In general, Chinese authorities did not provide detailed evidence of terrorist involvement, and restricted the ability of journalists and international observers to independently verify official media accounts.”
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That view also appeared reflected in the State Department’s official response to the train station incident. Spokeswoman Marie Harf didn’t use the word terror in commenting on it:
“The United States condemns the horrific and despicable acts of violence against innocent civilians at the train station in Urumqi in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China,” she said, using the region’s full official name. ”We offer our condolences and sympathies to the victims, their families, and all of those affected by this tragedy.”
In addition to faulting China for limiting information flow on acts it labels terrorism, the State Department said Beijing often fails to back up public statements in support of international cooperation to combat terrorism.
The U.S. report also charged that recent Chinese legislation widens authorities’ remit to arrest suspects for “endangering state security or crimes of terrorism” and that authority has been used to detain dissidents, human rights activists and religious practitioners.
Such assessments are irresponsible, China’s Foreign Ministry said in response.
“China falls victim of terrorism, and always firmly opposes terrorism in any form and terrorist acts conducted or backed by any person under any name,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement published on the ministry’s website shortly after the U.S. report was released (in Chinese and English).
Despite Beijing’s accusation that the U.S. has a double-standard when it comes to terrorism in China—a criticism repeated by Mr. Qin—Chinese are also conflicted about how to characterize violence with political overtones. Only days after the fiery car crash in Tiananmen Square was labeled terrorism, authorities declined to use the term when a middle-aged Chinese man was arrested for detonating explosives outside a Communist Party building in the city of Taiyuan.
On a tour of Xinjiang this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping spent much of his time signaling he has all the proof he needs about the threat faced by his country. Following the Urumqi explosion, he was quoted by the Xinhua news agency saying the “anti-separatism battle in Xinjiang is long-term, complicated and acute.”
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