left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Xinjiang boosts airport security

Updated: 2012-07-06 11:53
By Xinhua in Urumqi ( China Daily)

The airport operator and airlines in China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region said on Thursday that security measures have been boosted after a foiled flight hijacking last week caused nationwide concern.

The incident, however, will not affect Xinjiang's role as a regional air traffic hub, local officials said.

The 16 airports in Xinjiang have raised security check levels, said a spokesman from Xinjiang Airport Group, the regional airport operator. Bottles passengers are carrying and most baggage will be inspected.

The disabled have to present hospital-issued disability certificates if they want to bring crutches or other mobility aids on board the planes.

Passengers at Kashgar Airport, near Hotan, must check crutches and wheelchairs in as baggage. The airport will provide them with mobility aids to help them get on board, said an airport official.

The boost in security comes after six passengers tried to hijack a Tianjin Airline plane minutes after it took off from Hotan Airport on June 29.

According to police and witness accounts, the hijackers dismantled a crutch into aluminum pipes to use as weapons. They tried to storm the cockpit but were subdued by flight security guards and passengers.

Major airlines operating Xinjiang routes, including China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, said the incident did not affect their businesses.

Xinjiang sees a summer travel peak from July. Airports are packed with tourists.

"In the past, passengers were asked to take off their shoes and belts for security checks. But now, we have to check in carry-on luggage as well," said Liu Jing, a tourist who flew from Kashgar to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. "It is definitely stricter. But as it is for our benefit, who can blame the airport?"

China is aiming to build Xinjiang into a regional air travel hub, taking advantage of its location in the heartland of Eurasia and bordering eight countries - Russia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and four central Asian states.

Twenty-nine airlines operate regular flights to and from Xinjiang. Urumqi is linked to 52 domestic and about 30 international destinations, the airport group spokesman said.

But Xinjiang air travel has its share of violence risks.

On March 7, 2008, a 19-year-old Uygur woman on board a China Southern flight attempted to bring down the plane. She was stopped before lighting a can of gasoline inside the bathroom.

Xinjiang has been in the country's forefront against terrorism. Violent attacks have erupted across the vast region over the past two decades. Experts say many are linked to a surge of religious extremism in the region.

Thursday marked the third anniversary of Xinjiang's worst riots in decades. On July 5, 2009, rock-flinging and knife-wielding thugs looted shops, torched vehicles and killed nearly 200 people in Urumqi. The government blamed overseas groups for inciting the riots.

On Wednesday, Xinjiang's top official oversaw a counter-terrorism drill in the city.

"We should leave terrorists no place to hide," said Zhang Chunxian, secretary of the Xinjiang committee of the Communist Party of China, who described Xinjiang's overall situation as "stable" but facing "severe challenges".