Terror activities in Xinjiang 'curbed'

A group of Uighurs in Xinjiang doing a folk dance yesterday while celebrating Eid al-Adha in front of the Id Kah Mosque in the city of Kashgar. Critics allege that China's persecution and unfair treatment of the Muslim Uighurs, the biggest ethnic gro
A group of Uighurs in Xinjiang doing a folk dance yesterday while celebrating Eid al-Adha in front of the Id Kah Mosque in the city of Kashgar. Critics allege that China's persecution and unfair treatment of the Muslim Uighurs, the biggest ethnic group in Xinjiang, have fomented terror attacks, but Beijing has dismissed such accusations.PHOTO: XINHUA

But the authorities will continue to come down hard on those who sow discord in restive region, says top official

The authorities in Xinjiang have curbed terror activities in the restive region, and will continue striking at perpetrators who "do this to sow discord between communities", the region's chairman said yesterday.

Mr Shohrat Zakir gave this reassurance after recent reports of violence at a Xinjiang coal mine and terror attacks overseas linked to the autonomous region. There has also been a drop in high-profile domestic incidents.

Terror incidents in Xinjiang have fallen in the past year, Mr Shohrat said, and this was due to the efforts of the people. "We feel the increasing hatred that Xinjiang's people have towards terror activities... They have been coming forward to provide information to curb these crimes," he said, without giving specific figures.

Mr Shohrat was addressing reporters after launching a White Paper on social and economic developments in Xinjiang, which celebrates the 60th anniversary of its founding as an autonomous region this year.

He was appointed Xinjiang chairman in January after a tumultuous period in the region marked by a spate of terror incidents linked to extremists. These included a suicide attack in Tiananmen Square in 2013 and attacks at train stations in Urumqi and Kunming last year.

While such high-profile incidents have abated this year, there have been reports of other attacks, most recently by separatists at a coal mine in Aksu last Friday, said the United States-based Radio Free Asia.

The attack was "a long-planned, well-prepared, large-scale attack by separatists against police officers and mine owners at a coal field in our county", it cited a local government notice as saying.

There has also been concern that Xinjiang-linked violence is spreading to other countries. For instance, there is speculation a deadly bomb blast in Bangkok last month was carried out in retaliation for Thailand's repatriation of more than 100 ethnic minority Uighurs to China in July.

The Muslim Uighurs are the biggest ethnic group in Xinjiang, making up about half of the 23 million population. Critics allege that China's persecution and unfair treatment of Uighurs have fomented the terror attacks but Beijing has dismissed such accusations.

Mr Shohrat, who is Uighur, said violence in Xinjiang was a longstanding concern and related to issues that also affect other parts of the world. He said the authorities will continue to be "hard" towards extremists but they will also educate the public about their actions.

Officials devoted most of their time yesterday to detailing the improvements Beijing has made in Xinjiang. Mr Shohrat said Xinjiang's gross domestic product growth for the first six months this year was 8.2 per cent, higher than the national rate of 7 per cent.

The 55-page White Paper - the fourth on Xinjiang's development and the first since 2009 - also spelt out gains made in education, employment and infrastructure.

"Xinjiang is stable. The improvements are very significant. The people can feel it," Mr Shohrat said.

When asked about religious freedom for Muslims in Xinjiang yesterday, other officials also defended the government's policies.

Senior Xinjiang Communist Party official Shewket Imin said the ban on burqas in Xinjiang, enacted this year, was justified because these were "garments of extremism that were neither traditionally Uighur nor Muslim". "By covering people's eyes, burqas represent some kind of backwardness. We Uighurs don't wish to see women wear such kind of clothes either," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2015, with the headline 'Terror activities in Xinjiang 'curbed''. Print Edition | Subscribe