Kunming railway station attack

NPC’s Xinjiang delegates skirt issues of unrest, Kunming at panel meeting

Delegates veer away from touchy subject and talk about economic growth -- until impatient journalists urge answers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 4:53pm

All 60 National People’s Congress (NPC) deputies from Xinjiang sought to avoid the issue of restiveness in the region at a two-and-a-half-hour meeting that emphasised the region’s economy, and it was only when pressed by journalists that they mentioned the subject.

The officials only spoke about security threats faced by the region – which is high on people’s minds after the Kunming railway attack on March 1 -- when a journalist’s question touched on terrorism at the tail end of the meeting.

We have been making achievements over the last year despite facing complicated situations. We are making progress towards stability
Li Jianguo, NPC secretary general

In prepared speeches, the delegates, tasked to discuss the central government work report delivered on Wednesday by Premier Li Keqiang, painted a rosy picture of Xinjiang – one of high economic growth and a multitude of jobs.

“We have been making achievements over the last year despite facing complicated situations. We are making progress towards stability,” said NPC secretary general Li Jianguo.

Any mention of simmering tensions between Han Chinese and Muslim-majority Uygurs, or of concerns about terrorism in the western region after Xinjiang assailants killed 29 people and wounded 143 at a railway station in Kunming, were absent from the discourse, to the disappointment of foreign and local media present.

“We support the nation’s initiative to include Xinjiang as part of the silk road economic belt,” Liu Xinqi, head of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, said during the meeting.

“Planning of the economic belt should be stepped up.”

Liu said the work report had plenty of “clear objectives”. Other positive comments about Premier Li’s report were common during the proceedings.

When the floor was opened for questions from the press, even the queries mostly dealt with the economy. The first question was on providing livelihood and how the regional government used social media to disseminate information.

The second question, from state-run CCTV, asked about Xinjiang’s economic performance, which prompted Xinjiang regional vice-chairman Huang Wei to give a 10-minute explanation of a series of figures centring on 11.1 per cent GDP growth last year, which created 400,000 jobs.

When Huang wanted to further explain Xinjiang’s this year economic targets, the press grew impatient and yelled, “It’s enough.”

Huang continued anyway. The media gave hearty applause when he finished.

Finally, at the tail end of the event, a journalist from Phoenix TV asked how Xinjiang would address the violence and maintain security.

Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri spent a few minutes discussing the topic, saying terrorists were the enemies of all ethnic groups in China. “We will resolutely crack down,” he said. “They are making chaos time after time, but they also fail time after time. We are confident in our work.”

The event concluded afterwards.

Wanting more answers, a scrum of journalists, although pushed back by security officials, managed to catch Xinjiang party chief Zhang Chunxian as he was leaving the panel room.

Zhang said “severe crackdown on violence is necessary” as many terrorists have bypassed China’s internet control to disseminate extremist views. He did not elaborate.