Beijing will send more than 2,000 high-calibre specialists and cadres to Xinjiang to strengthen its grip on the region and speed up its economic development. The move, decided before the bus bombings in Urumqi on Tuesday and the Uygur separatist riots in Yining early last month, is a long-term strategic step to defuse ethnic tension in the region, which is dominated by Uygurs and other minorities. 'Faster economic growth will also help lessen the tension between ethnic minorities and Han people,' said an editorial official with the Xinjiang Daily, the region's party mouthpiece. Earlier this week, Xinjiang's senior officials, led by party secretary Wang Lequan and the region's chairman, Abdulahat Abdurixit, held a welcome party for the first group of 200 to arrive. This showed the importance attached to their presence, the official said. More than 80 per cent of them were specialists, while the others were cadres who would help improve the region's administration, he said. During the Ninth Five-year Plan (1996-2000), 2,000 to 2,500 such specialists will be transferred to Xinjiang to add to its pool of talents. The newspaper official said the injection of professionals was part of a plan by Beijing to help the region build its backward economy. Xinjiang has experienced a massive brain drain in recent years, with skilled people leaving for the more prosperous coastal areas, the official admitted. The situation was further exacerbated by the regional Government's inflexible human resources policy - for example in staff housing - which failed to retain high-quality people, the official said. 'The dearth of high-calibre experts is a restraint for the development of Xinjiang,' he added. 'They [the newcomers] will be asked to collaborate with local cadres to strengthen leadership, improve economic development, and enhance work for other areas by boosting ethnic cohesiveness.' The official rejected the notion that Xinjiang was being ravaged by subversive acts committed by ethnic minorities opposed to the presence of Hans. 'Most ethnic minorities living here support the regional Government's ethnic harmony policy.' Concerning the recent bomb-explosions in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, he said Xinjiang was no exception to the worldwide trend of Muslim separatism. The most pressing issue facing Xinjiang was economic progress, not piecemeal and insignificant ethnic conflicts, he said.