Violence resistance in Xinjiang (China): tracking militancy, ethnic riots and “knife-wielding” terrorist (1978-2012)

Adriano Rodríguez, P. (2013). Violence resistance in Xinjiang (China): tracking militancy, ethnic riots and “knife-wielding” terrorist (1978-2012). Historia Actual Online, (30), 135-149. Link


(The abstract is in Spanish so here is the conclusion):

Violent episodes with politic-separatist connotations have been present in Xinjiang since the declaration of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Although this paper has reviewed its nature and extent since information began to flow from this once remote region in the reform era, historians have revisited other previous waves of violent resistance to Chinese rule. The existence of small armed groups of Kazakhs in the early years of the PRC or two large-scale ethnic riots in the restive city of Ghulja -the first in 1962 in relation to an exodus of Kazakhs to the Soviet Union and the second led by Uyghurs in the middle of the Cultural Revolution – are among the most significant. As a direct consequence of the tensions inherent to a quasi-colonial environment, where the Uyghur ethnic group –still a majority within Xinjiang- perceives a threat to its identity97, the recurrence of not necessarily “separatist” episodes of violence seems to be an inevitable outcome for the region.

In this sense, some authors have highlighted the ‘Catch-22’ situation that Beijing faces when addressing the grievances of the Uyghur ethnic minority, especially in the realm of Islam, an unalienable feature of Uyghur identity which, when interfered with, has triggered much of the violence in Xinjiang98. Therefore, on one hand, greater religious openness such as those seen in the 1980s usually involves greater identity awareness for Uyghur people, which can result in a higher appeal for separatism, since it comes with a realization of the outstanding differences between the ‘local’ Uyghur and the Han ‘settler’. If, on the other hand, the Chinese government chooses, as it has done with the ‘Strike, Hard’ campaigns, a repressive control of religion and other traditional practices intrinsic to the Uyghur identity, violent resistance will be a likely outcome, although hardly to an extent which compromises Beijing’s control over the XUAR.


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