Foreign nations 'appeasing rebels'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 May, 1998, 12:00am

Despite the arrests and sentencing of dozens of people last year, Xinjiang has not solved the problem of separatist terrorists and has experienced continued unrest in recent months, the region's vice-chairman said.

But Zhang Zhou said foreign media had greatly exaggerated the problem.

Last year, fewer than 100 people had been arrested and sentenced for murder, arson, causing explosions and other terrorist acts in cities including Yining and Urumqi, he told a group of foreign reporters making a rare visit to the region.

In Yining, close to the border with Kazakhstan, the most serious incident reported in the official media involved the deaths of 10 people and injuries to 140 in two days of ethnic riots in February last year.

Mr Zhang said: 'There have been incidents during 1998, including an explosion at Yejian, near Kashgar, in which no one was killed or wounded. We are investigating.

'The terrorists use weapons that they make themselves or are smuggled from abroad. Some are trained abroad. We are investigating where they get the weapons from,' he said.

'We cannot say that we have solved the problem.' Mr Zhang said foreign governments, which he declined to name, tolerated and appeased the activities of the terrorists abroad.

'We oppose this,' he said.

The terrorists were a small minority who did not enjoy support from the eight million Muslims in Xinjiang, said Mr Zhang.

'They have killed Han Chinese, they have killed their own people, they have killed the highest clergy because these people supported the Communist Party,' he said.

'This has nothing to do with religion or nationality. Because law and order in China is good, these events are news.' Mr Zhang said ethnic minorities, who account for 62 per cent of Xinjiang's 17 million people, enjoyed affirmative action in education and employment, with a proportion of jobs allocated to them after graduation, in state firms and government institutions.

From 1992 to 1997, the central Government invested 170.8 billion yuan (HK$158.8 billion) in telecommunications, roads, railways, power stations, aviation, oil development and other infrastructure projects in the region.

The sum equalled the total investment during the period from 1949 to 1991, Mr Zhang said.