The United States has warned American travellers to be vigilant against a terrorist attack in China’s restive northwestern region of Xinjiang after Beijing told police there to be prepared for danger.
The call came ahead of the 50th anniversary on Saturday of the establishment of Xinjiang as an autonomous region.
Muslim Uighur militants, whom Beijing calls terrorists or separatists, have been struggling for decades to make the remote region, formally established on Oct. 1, 1955, an independent state called East Turkestan.
“Americans considering travel to the region and those already there should review their plans carefully, remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and exercise caution,” a message e-mailed from the U.S. embassy in China said.
“Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Americans in remote areas or border regions where military or police authority is limited or non-existent could also become targets.”
Chinese security chief Luo Gan had urged law enforcement officers and armed police in Xinjiang to crack down on criminals to create a “safer environment for economic growth and social progress”, the China Daily newspaper said on Thursday.
Luo, a Politburo Standing Committee member, also said officials at all levels should be “prepared for danger in times of safety” and “keep a clear mind”.
The Public Security Ministry said earlier this month that more than 260 terrorist acts had been committed in Xinjiang in the past two decades, killing 160 and wounding 440. It labelled East Turkestan forces the main terrorist threat to China.
Majority-Muslim Xinjiang is home to nearly 20 million people, more than 60 per cent of them considered ethnic minorities in predominantly Han China.
Wang Lequan, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, said last month that Rebiya Kadeer, a minority Uighur businesswoman freed in March after years in jail and exiled to the United States, was plotting to sabotage the anniversary celebrations in Xinjiang, which lies to the north of Tibet.
Kadeer, jailed in 1999 on charges of providing state secrets abroad, was released on medical parole.