BEIJING (AFP) - China's state-run media on Tuesday called for "ethnic healing" in the restive Xinjiang region, a day after two policemen and 14 members of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority were killed in a clash.
The unusually conciliatory editorial in the Global Times newspaper urged the authorities to encourage travel to the region and to recruit more Uighur police.
Measures should also be taken to ensure that Uighurs "are made to believe that they are trusted members of the Chinese populace", said the newspaper, which is close to China's ruling Communist Party and often takes a hardline stance.
"Winning the hearts of the public in sensitive areas has decisive significance," the paper wrote, adding that "the whole country should be dedicated to dissolving the estrangement" between Uighurs and China's Han majority.
The Tianshannet news portal, which is run by the Xinjiang government, reported that police attempting to detain criminal suspects in Shufu country near Kashgar were attacked on Sunday by several "thugs" armed with explosives and knives.
In the ensuing clash, two police officers were killed and 14 of the Uighurs were shot dead, it said.
But Uighur campaigners said the police had broken into a house where members of the ethnic minority were gathering, and opened fire first.
The vast western area of Xinjiang has for years seen sporadic unrest by Uighurs, which rights groups say is driven by cultural oppression, intrusive security measures and immigration by Han Chinese.
Beijing attributes the unrest to religious extremists and separatism.
Such violence has "become normalised", the Global Times wrote on Tuesday, adding that "the ability of extreme forces to befog the minds of the people has been strengthened".
"We should also make Xinjiang people acknowledge the harm of such estrangement and that extreme forces are violators of the interests of the Uighur people," it wrote.
Sunday's incident came less than two months after a fiery attack in Beijing's Tiananmen Square that the police say was carried out by three Uighurs.