Publication: Armed Conflict Survey 2017
09 May 2017
China (Xinjiang) The conflict in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang saw little change on the ground in 2016. Recorded fatalities fell to just nine – from around 200 in 2015 and 400 in 2014. This apparent trend could have reflected a significant reduction in the threat to civilians from terrorist activity and armed clashes. Yet even as the conflict seemed to stabilise, the authorities continued to strengthen their counter-terrorism policy on the province. A document released on 22 January at a political conference in Beijing called on them to ‘firmly curb terrorist activities in [Xinjiang], prevent these activities from spreading inland, and prevent violent terrorist attacks in large and medium-sized cities’. This concern was echoed in a November speech to the National Congress of the Chinese Islamic Association by Wang Zuoan, the head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, who said that religious extremism was spreading eastwards from Xinjiang to ‘inland provincial areas’.
The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region became the first Chinese province to introduce its own interpretation of a national counter-terrorism law that came into effect on 1 January, providing more detailed regulations on how the security forces could deal with suspected terrorist offences. The law banned the dissemination of information on terrorist attacks, perhaps explaining why only two fatal incidents in Xinjiang became public knowledge in 2016.