China (Xinjiang)


Conflict Summary

Xinjiang, an autonomous region in China, is home to an ethnic Uighur population that has been waging independence campaigns of varying intensity since the commencement of Chinese rule in the eighteenth century. Its location in China’s far northwest made the region, sometimes referred to as East Turkestan, a strategic bulwark against the countries of Central Asia and the Soviet Union. The economic importance of the region increased as the People’s Republic began exploiting its rich oil, gas and mineral resources in the middle of the twentieth century. Uighurs, the largest section of Xinjiang’s population, are Turkic and predominantly Muslim and have been held responsible for committing sporadic acts of violence since the creation of the People’s Republic. In response, the government has carried out counter-insurgency initiatives, involving ‘anti-crime’ drives, aimed at maintaining peace in the region. However, officially sponsored migration of Han Chinese into the region has been met with a rise in ethnic tensions, as some Uighurs have felt that most new opportunities from the region’s rapid economic development have gone to the Han immigrants. For their part, many Han Chinese believe Uighurs receive preferential treatment. After occasional bomb attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China perpetrated in the late 1990s by the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), there was a notable rise in violence in 2009 when major ethnic clashes erupted, particularly in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi. The conflict escalated again in late 2013 with an attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and there were several large-scale attacks in 2014, including outside Xinjiang itself. China has responded with a mixture of ‘strike hard’ security policies and development initiatives, as Xinjiang is integral in Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road’ economic strategy.

  • 3,092
    Fatalities since 1991

  • Non State Parties
    • - East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)
    • - East Turkestan Liberation Organisation (ETLO)
    State Parties
    • - China, People’s Republic of (gov of)

    • Inter-community violence
    • Separatism
    • Terrorism
  • 11 July
    Political developments
    The ‘Sixth National Meeting on Pairing-Assistance to Xinjiang’, a government-organised conference concerning the provision of aid to Xinjiang from other Chinese regions, ends in Kashgar. Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, calls for prosperity and stability in Xinjiang.
  • 8 July
    Foreign relations / Insurgency / Non-state armed groups
    Al-Masra, a news channel said to be linked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, criticises the arrest and deportation of Uighur students to China by Egyptian authorities.
  • 7 July
    Human security / Foreign relations

    Egyptian authorities allegedly detain large numbers of ethnic Uighur students. According to one student, over 200 have been detained since 4 July.

  • 4 July
    Human security
    Radio Free Asia reports that authorities in Xinjiang have detained hundreds of ethnic Uighurs upon their return from the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.