China Steps Up Security After Train Station Attacks

May 12, 2014 – Chinese police have arrested more than 200 people over six weeks in the northwestern Xinjiang region after a spate of train station attacks.

State media said 232 people were detained for “dissemination of violent or terrorist videos”.

Cities like Beijing and Shanghai have also stepped up checks at public transport hubs after the attacks.

A bomb attack at Urumqi station in April wounded 79 and killed two, including the bomber.

Less than two months ago, assailants armed with knives slashed and killed 29 civilians at Kunming train station.

Last October, a man blew himself up in a car that crashed into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Analysts said that based on where these three incidents took place, the next attacks could happen in more prominent Chinese cities.

Yang Shu, director of Central Asian Studies at Lanzhou University, said: “It’s clear that their point is to cause massive damage in public places to put pressure on the regime.

“The ultimate objective for terrorists in China is separatism. One way is to directly attack government agencies. The other way is to launch attacks at special timings at places with symbolism.”

The incidents have prompted the Chinese public to ask the government to fast-track the enactment of an anti-terrorism law, which was first proposed in 2006.

It has been delayed because terrorist activities were previously considered localised, rather than national issues.

In the meantime, China has stepped up its grassroots’ outreach campaign, sending 200,000 government officials to Xinjiang where majority of the attacks have taken place.

Shen Dingli, associate dean at Institute of International Studies, Fudan University, said: “The attacker would have displayed clues before. How to prevent these incidents, why do they happen? So as the local government, what do you do? You should have discovered it in time and provide guidance.”

Experts said that even though the recent attacks appeared to be more frequent and widespread, the primitive weapons used, like knives and a homemade bomb, suggest that the attackers are not as organised as terrorist networks like the Al-Qaeda.

No one has taken responsibility and no clear motive was announced, suggesting also that the attackers could have acted on their own.

Still, the fear is that more isolated incidents could take place and threaten public safety, as officials increase checks at public transport hubs, such as airports and train stations in large Chinese cities.