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The State-controlled Xinhua news agency of China has disseminated the following report at 2-30 PM Indian Standard Time on June 29,2012:

“Flight GS7554, which took off at 12:25 from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region’s Hotan Airport to Urumqi, was hijacked ten minutes after its departure, according to news from the public security department of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Six scoundrels were controlled by flight crew and passengers. During the fight with scoundrels, some passengers and flight crew received minor injuries. The plane returned to Hotan Airport immediately after the hijack. The case is under investigation.”

2.The Agence France Presse (AFP) has quoted a spokesperson of the Xinjiang Government as alleging that the six persons who made the unsuccessful hijack attempt were Uighurs. She added: “For the moment, we don’t know the purpose of the hijack. It’s still under investigation. At least seven crew members and passengers were injured in the incident.”

3. The hijack attempt seems to have been made despite tightened security alerts in the Xinjiang province and particularly in the Capital Urumqi and in Hotan as a precaution against possible incidents on the occasion of the third anniversary of the July 5,2009, violent riots between Han Chinese and Uighurs that led to the death of an estimated 200 persons belonging to both the communities.

4. As part of the security alert, the authorities of the Public Security Bureau have been undertaking searches of houses of Uighurs for hidden anti-Government leaflets and weapons. They have also set up road barricades to search motor vehicles and to make identity checks. Despite this, the six Uighurs appear to have made their way to the airport and got into the aircraft.

5. It is not clear whether they carried any weapons or tried to overcome the crew physically without any weapons

6. There have recently reports of fresh anger in Xinjiang following action taken by the authorities to stop what the authorities describe as illegal Koran classes without the prior permission of the authorities. Twelve Muslim children were injured in Hotan when the police raided a premises where illegal Koran classes were allegedly being held.

7. While the Uighurs have been reduced to a minority by Han colonisation in the capital city of Urumqi, in the smaller towns the Uighurs are still in a majority. In Hotan, they constitute about 97 per cent of the population. (29-6-12)

( The writer is B.RAMAN Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

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