Xinjiang at centre of fact-finding missions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 May, 2010, 12:00am

Xinjiang has been the centre of an unprecedented flurry of government fact-finding missions in the past fortnight, as mainland leaders prepare for the first Xinjiang-themed central government work conference, designed to 'leapfrog development' in the restive region.

New Xinjiang party secretary Zhang Chunxian held 10 round-table meetings in nine days after the May 1 holiday, speaking to officials from different levels of government and departments, people's congress deputies and military officers in both Urumqi and Kashgar , according to mainland media.

Meanwhile, 19 provinces and cities were paired up with more than 80 counties in Xinjiang to offer financial assistance and know-how. Investigation teams from the more developed regions have been scouring Xinjiang to see what they can contribute.

On Sunday, Zhang held a preparatory meeting in Beijing with the rest of the Xinjiang regional government, calling on cadres to perform their best at the upcoming work conference, which 'will have immense impact on the leapfrog development and long-term stability of the region'.

'The reason the central government is holding this meeting is to mobilise the power of the whole Communist Party and the whole country, to take on a development path that has Chinese characteristics as well as fitting in with the reality in Xinjiang, and make sure that Xinjiang will reach prosperity by 2020, like the rest of the country,' he said.

The timing of the work conference has not been announced, but the Xinjiang Daily said it would be 'soon'. Given that Zhang and other regional government leaders are in Beijing, it could have been held as early as yesterday.

The central government replaced Xinjiang's former party secretary Wang Lequan with Zhang last month and announced a series of new economic measures designed to appease the Uygur-majority region, which witnessed violent ethnic clashes in July that killed at least 197 people and injured nearly 2,000.

More than 10 billion yuan (HK$11.42 billion) will be poured into Xinjiang from next year by the 19 provinces and cities in the biggest and most comprehensive investment in the western autonomous region to date. Beijing alone will invest 7.2 billion yuan in the next five years and support the development of the Hotan area and a Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps farming unit. The central government will also invest a sum several times the provincial contribution and offer other preferential policies.

The focus of the assistance will be on basic social structures like housing and public services, as well as the development of southern Xinjiang, the region's poorest area, where Uygurs are concentrated.

In comparison, The Outlook Magazine reports, only 4.3 billion yuan was pumped into Xinjiang by partner provinces and regions in the past 13 years, with another 25 billion yuan of investment realised through joint ventures.

During iron-fisted Wang's 17-year reign of Xinjiang, the region's gross domestic product jumped from 33.6 billion yuan to 427.4 billion yuan, largely due to exploitation of the region's abundant natural resources.

But a common criticism is that the profits did not benefit local people, only fattened big, state-owned energy companies and the mainland's Han Chinese majority.