Western China - home to a Muslim Uighur minority and ethnic Tibetans - has been rocked by violence in recent months. Chinese authorities are keeping reporters out of the area.
Twelve people died violently in the far western region of Xinjiang last Tuesday, it seems, but lingering questions about who they were and how exactly they died highlight just how hard it is to unearth the truth about ethnic conflicts in China’s farther reaches.
Both Xinjiang, populated mostly by the restive Muslim Uighur minority, and ethnically Tibetan areas of Southwest China have been rocked by violence in recent months. But the authorities have been largely successful in hiding what has been going on from outsiders.
The first news of new trouble in Xinjiang came from the official Chinese government news agency Xinhua, in a short dispatch that said “violent mobs” had hacked 10 people to death on Tuesday on the outskirts of Kashgar, and that the police had shot two people dead.
When a Bloomberg reporter in Beijing sought details from the Kashgar government press office, an official there said reports of unrest were “baseless assertions.” He hung up when the reporter told him that Xinhua was carrying such a report.
Xinhua said nothing about the ethnic identity of the attackers or the victims.
Uighur exiles in Germany, however, had a different story. Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, told the Associated Press that the attackers had killed seven armed Chinese security officers and that three people had been shot to death. Two others had died, Mr. Raxit said, without explaining how.
A similar fog of conflicting accounts hangs over the spate of self-immolations by Tibetan monks and nuns over the past year in Sichuan; exile Tibetan groups say there have been at least 22 such incidents in protest at harsh Chinese rule. The government acknowledges only half that number.