BEIJING: China will show no leniency to those who perpetrate terrorist activities, the country's top police official said on Thursday, the most senior official comment since deadly attacks shook China's western Xinjiang region over the weekend.
"Those criminals who dare to test the law and commit violent terrorist acts will be shown no leniency, no appeasement and no soft heart," Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu said.
Meng's comments came nearly a week after ethnically Uighur assailants stormed a restaurant in the Xinjiang city of Kashgar, killed the owner and a waiter, and then hacked four people to death on a nearby street.
State media said at least 14 were killed and 42 injured in two separate incidents on Saturday and Sunday in the city.
The attacks were the latest in bursts of violence that have jolted Xinjiang, where many Uighurs, a mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking people from the region, resent the influx of Han Chinese.
"No matter who it is, if they have broken the law, if they have jeopardized the people's lives and property, if they have engaged in splitting the country or impaired ethnic unity, they will be firmly handled according to law," Meng said.
He made the comments during an anti-terrorism meeting in the region's capital Urumqi.
"Recent occurrences of violent terrorist crimes in Xinjiang have caused numerous casualties among innocent people, and seriously impacted Xinjiang's economic and social development and ethnic unity," he said
Those words were the closet Meng came to explicitly referring to the weekend's violence. He avoided any mention of Pakistan, where China has said separatists groups have received training.
China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday praised Pakistan as a firm partner against terror and religious extremism, playing down the risk that ties could be strained.
Many Uighurs complain of discrimination in the job market, and say government efforts to boost development in Xinjiang have mainly benefited the Han majority, and attracted more to move there.
Since the attacks in Kashgar, tensions have been high, with security forces and checkpoints blanketing the city.
Eighteen people including 14 "rioters" were killed in an attack on a police station in Xinjiang on July 18, according to the government, and in July 2009, Urumqi was rocked by violence between Han Chinese and Uighurs that killed nearly 200 people.
Meng said the Party's work possessed a special strategic significance in Xinjiang, a region which accounts for a sixth of the country's land mass and holds deposits of oil and gas.
China must work to deepen ethnic unity education and let all ethnic groups feel the "warm concern" of the government and the Communist Party, Meng said.