“Several” Uighur naan salesmen in the central Chinese province of Hunan stabbed five passersby in a grocery market and were killed by police today, the latest in a string of mass knifing deaths plaguing China in recent months.
The South China Morning Post reported today that six died in the attack–five passersby and the attacker–after a dispute triggered a scrum that led to one of the naan salesman attacking people with a “long knife.” According to the police report, the dispute began between two “street peddlers” and, after one killed the other, he continued to hack at passersby, killing five. The man involved in the dispute was “hacked at several times,” said one witness, despite clearly having lost consciousness. Xinhua identifies the men in the dispute as Hebir Turdi and Memet Abla, with Turdi the assailant. The names confirm that they are of Uighur ethnic origin.
The Associated Press report on the incident differs slightly from the ones published by Chinese news sources. While both confirm that one attacker was shot dead by police, the Associated Press says there was a second attacker, who was detained by authorities.
The incident in the latest in a string of similar knife attacks across the country. The first to attract international attention occurred in December 2012, when a man armed with a knife stabbed 22 children in an elementary school in Henan province. Chinese media reported that the children were injured but none died. The incident followed a deadly knife attack two months before, where a patient at a Chinese hospital stabbed an intern to death and injured three others; that incident was also reported as part of a trend of patients attacking medical staff due to frustration with China’s health care system.
In addition to individual instances of knife attacks, Chinese authorities have had to contend with organized terrorist knife attacks in public places. In a separate and much more recent incident, a group of at least ten assailants in black clothing attacked Kunming railway station, killing 27 and injuring 109. The incident was described as “China’s 9/11” by one national media source and once again rekindled awareness for tensions between the Chinese government and the Uighur minority. The Chinese government immediately began censoring images of the worst of the devastation.
Chinese authorities have been systematic in diminishing the implications of violent attacks in the country, instead focusing on violent outbursts in others, particularly the United States. For example, the government published a human rights report last month accusing the United States of maintaining an unsafe atmosphere for its citizens thanks to the Second Amendment. The report, reported through Xinhua, accuses the United States of having an epidemic of violence and human rights violations, citing several mass shootings, the government shutdown of last autumn, and Jimmy Kimmel’s late night program on NBC.