Expand aid programme for China's Xinjiang region to include anti-terrorism, says leading cadre

Programme to boost economy of autonomous region should be widened to include security, says leading policy figure, as Beijing praises progress

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 September, 2015, 10:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2018, 2:46pm

An aid programme for Xinjiang should help it fight terrorism, a leading cadre urged on Wednesday, ahead of the release of a white paper asserting Beijing's achievements on minority rights in the far west region.

"[We should] attach more importance to supporting [Xinjiang's] anti-terrorism capacity, and include grass-roots-level anti-terrorism efforts in the work of supporting Xinjiang," Yu Zhengsheng - a Politburo Standing Committee member - said on Wednesday.

Yu was addressing a meeting for "Supporting Xinjiang", an aid programme in which coastal provinces send money and expertise to the region. The programme has previously been run on exclusively economic lines.

Economic development alone will not solve the problem of terrorism
Zheng Liang,  professor

Resentment at Beijing among Uygurs, a Muslim ethnic group that accounts for about half of Xinjiang's population, has become increasingly violent in recent years.

Beijing claimed in a 20,000-word white paper issued on Thursday, days before the anniversary of the founding of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region on October1, that "tremendous achievements" had been made economically and socially in Xinjiang. But, it also called for counterterrorism efforts in the region to increase.

Yu, who is also chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, will lead an entourage to Xinjiang to commemorate its founding.

Supporting Xinjiang, initiated in 1996 to help the region's economy, designates 19 coastal provinces and cities to support cities or counties in Xinjiang.

"Supporting Xinjiang was mostly about building hospitals and schools, and sending teachers, doctors and technology professionals to Xinjiang," said Jiang Zhaoyong, an expert on the region. With the programme's new emphasis, coastal cities were likely to help fund police forces in Xinjiang, he said.

"Economic development alone will not solve the problem of terrorism," said Zheng Liang, a professor at Urumqi's Xinjiang University. "[The shift] shows the leadership is worried by grass-roots-level instability."

Intelligence sharing should also be improved, as most of the suspects who carried out attacks around the country were from Xinjiang, Zheng added.

Read more: Civil servants, students, teachers in China's Xinjiang banned from fasting during Ramadan

During 2010 to 2014, Beijing poured more than 1 trillion yuan (HK$1.2 trillion) into Xinjiang, according to the white paper. Yet "extremely severe damage" had been caused by terrorist attacks since the 1990s, the paper said, without providing the number of casualties.

Beijing has long been criticised for limiting religious freedom in Xinjiang and banning Muslims from fasting during Ramadan. Beijing rejects such criticisms, even though notices on some government websites ask employees to promise not to fast during the holy month.