Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called for resolute opposition to any act that could damage the country’s ethnic unity amid growing anger over the recent knife attacks by militants from Xinjiang in Kunming.
“We will build a ‘wall of bronze and iron’ for ethnic unity, social stability and national unity,” he said while joining a panel discussion with members from the minority ethnic groups of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
The tradition of all ethnic groups in the country “breathing the same air and sharing the same fate” should be handed down from generation to generation, Xi was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency. “Unity and stability are blessings, while secession and turmoil are disasters. People of all ethnic groups of the country should cherish ethnic unity,” he said.
His comments came amid growing anger among the majority Han community over the mass knife attack at the railway station in Kunming, capital of southwest Yunnan Province, on Saturday that left 33 people killed and over 143 injured. Chinese police held al-Qaeda linked East Turkestan Islamic Movement, fighting for the independence of Xinjiang, responsible for the gruesome attacks. Four militants from the eight-member group, including two women, which carried out the attacks, have been captured.
Local native Muslim Uyghurs in the northwestern Xinjiang province felt agitated with increasing settlements of majority Han Chinese from mainland China.
Xi also urged that everything possible be done to accelerate the social and economic development of China’s minority ethnic groups and the ethnic areas and to bring concrete benefits to people there. Meanwhile, a self-exiled Uyghur leader urged China not to crackdown on the Uyghurs in Xinjiang for what the militant have done.
Strongly condemning the violence, Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), said: “It is absolutely vital the Chinese government deal with the longstanding and deteriorating human rights issues facing Uyghurs if tensions are to be reduced.”
BBC quoted WUC statement as saying that it “unequivocally condemns the violence” and also expressed condolences to thevictims of the attack and their families. It urged Beijing “to refrain from using this as a pretext to further and indiscriminately crackdown on Uyghurs as precedents suggest, and to show a measured response”, it said.