BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese state television on Tuesday showed dramatic footage of what the government calls terror attacks by Islamist militants from the far western region of Xinjiang, as it steps up its propaganda campaign to counter an upsurge in violence.
The images, shown on CCTV’s English-language channel as part of a program on the threat China says it faces in Xinjiang, include surveillance camera footage of an attack at the north end of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last October.
Five people were killed and 40 hurt when a car plowed into a crowd and burst into flames. The dead included three people in the car identified by authorities as Islamists from Xinjiang.
In the color footage, not shown before in such detail, the car speeds through the crowd, smashing into pedestrians, as a black flag with what looks like Arabic lettering flies out the left-hand side. The back of the vehicle is then shown on fire.
“The tourists didn’t stand a chance,” the narrator says.
The footage was also provided to Reuters by China’s State Council Information Office, the Cabinet’s news arm.
Later on, its shows what it says is a video made by the militants before the attack, wearing black bandanas, praying, burning a Chinese flag and spitting on an American flag. An elderly woman shouts “God is Great”.
“The group pledged to launch a holy war. Inspired by their misreading of Islam, they filmed themselves calling for Jihad,” the CCTV narrator says. China sentenced three people to death last week for their role in planning the attack.
Xinjiang is the home of Muslim Uighurs who speak a Turkic language. China has blamed previous attacks on Islamists it says seek to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.
Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, including restrictions on religious practices, have provoked unrest, allegations denied by Beijing.
China says the main group responsible for attacks in Xinjiang is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), though many foreign experts doubt it exists as the coherent, well-organized group portrayed by Beijing.
CCTV said the group spreads its message in China via the Internet, with much of its material, including manuals on making bombs, uploaded in Turkey.
CCTV said that one of the videos it showed was of ETIM members training in the Gobi Desert in China, and pointed to similarities between ETIM videos and those made by al Qaeda.
Other footage included people setting fire to a police station and a man being hacked at with a long knife.
China has released such images before, notably during anti-Chinese riots in Tibet in 2008, as it addresses a foreign audience and tries to win over critics of its human rights record to show the country faces a real public security problem.
Around 200 people have died in attacks blamed on Xinjiang militants in China in the last year or so, and the authorities have launched a campaign to stop the unrest, detaining hundreds and executing a dozen others.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Ron Popeski