Amid security crackdown, Xinjiang weighs cash incentive to revive tourism

After terror attacks, officials hope to lure tour groups back with offer of 500 yuan to each individual; 55 sentenced at large stadium rally

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 7:23am

Officials in Xinjiang are considering offering each tourist 500 yuan (HK$630) as part of an effort to revive the region's flagging tourism industry, state media have reported.

Regional authorities are seeking to project an image of stability following a series of violent attacks. On Tuesday, dozens of people were sentenced in a large rally held in a stadium in a city near the Kazakhstan border.

Tourist intake has fallen by 40 per cent since last year, China Radio International reported.

"Many tourists went skiing and skating in Xinjiang during the winter, but since the deadly knife attack in Kunming in March, many have postponed their tour to Xinjiang," the region's tourism chief, Inam Nesirdin, was quoted as saying. No details were given on how the cash would be paid to tourists.

In a display reminiscent of the mainland's revolutionary-era rallies, 55 people were sentenced for crimes including terrorism, separatism and murder before a crowd of 7,000 at a sports stadium in Yining, state media reported.

Photographs showed packed stadium stands and trucks parked on the field loaded with prisoners in orange vests, guarded by armed police.

The sentencing comes after courts in the region jailed 39 people last week on charges including leading and organising terrorism groups.

Thirty-nine people were killed when attackers drove two off-road vehicles into crowds and threw explosives at an open air market in the regional capital of Urumqi last week.

A bomb and knife attack at the end of last month at the main railway station in Urumqi killed one bystander and wounded 79 people. Two attackers also died.

The attack in Kunming in March, which the authorities have blamed on separatists from Xinjiang, killed 29 people.

Regional tourist chief Nesirdin said tourists in Xinjiang should be allowed to easily visit the region's neighbouring countries.

Unlike Yunnan province and Guangxi , where domestic tourists can apply for visas to Vietnam, Xinjiang has kept its borders closed.

The vast autonomous region had been attracting a large number of visitors before the spate of violent attacks on the mainland.

Over the Lunar New Year holiday, more than a million tourists flocked to the region, Xinhua reported in February.

More than 1.5 million jobs were in tourism-related industries in the region at the end of last year, according to Xinhua.