- By Isaac Stone FishIsaac Stone Fish is FP's Asia editor. A Mandarin speaker, he lived in China for seven years before moving to Washington, D.C. His articles have also appeared in the New York Times, the Economist, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and he has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC, the BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, and PRI, among others.
On April 23, a gang of 14 "suspicious people" took three community workers hostage in a house in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. When police and officials rushed to the scene, the gang, all of whom were members of China’s Uighur minority, attacked them with axes and large knives, murdered the hostages, and set the house on fire, according to local Chinese authorities. Twenty-one people died in the violence.
As I wrote on Friday, while the government’s version of the events may seem far-fetched, journalists’ inability to report in the region and prove otherwise has lent it credibility. The incident has gotten a lot of airtime on China Central Television, the state broadcaster, which on Tuesday released gruesome images of the murdered cadres. Stills have been circulating online as well. Most of the websites that have hosted the photos appear to have had their comment sections deleted, but on Literature City, an overseas Chinese website, many of the comments take an uncharitable view of Uighurs, ho make up 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population. "This is human scum complaining about unfair treatment," wrote one commentator.
In the days since the bloodshed in Xinjiang, police have arrested 19 suspects. The Associated Press, citing Xinjiang’s propaganda office, said the suspects "belonged to a terrorist group founded in September, whose members regularly watched video clips advocating religious extremism and terrorism, and attended illegal preaching ceremonies." Whether that’s actually true or not may never be known.