URUMQI, July 1, 2013 (AFP) – Western media are encouraging “terrorism” in Xinjiang by misrepresenting violence in the region as ethnic conflict between minority Uighurs and Han Chinese, state-run media said Monday.
China denies the unrest — which last week left at least 35 people dead — is due to ethnic tensions and has vowed to crack down on “terrorist groups”, ordering military exercises ahead of the July 5 anniversary of major riots in 2009.
Beijing often labels outbreaks of violence in the western desert region as terrorism — accusations denied by rights groups for the mostly Muslim Uighur minority, who blame unrest on economic inequality and religious repression.
The Global Times criticised Western media for repeating allegations by the overseas-based World Uyghur Congress that the troubles arise from “continued suppression and provocation” and “ethnic conflicts”.
“Western public opinion is fooling these ignorant extremists through cheap support,” and had “once again stood against the facts and feelings of the Chinese people”, the paper said in an editorial, referring to “violent terrorism fuelled by the West”.
This “indulges the views of these violent terrorists, who are in fact a small, isolated group”, it said.
On Saturday, large sections of Xinjiang capital Urumqi were shut down as military vehicles took to the streets with at least 1,000 personnel from the People’s Armed Police, part of China’s armed forces responsible for law enforcement and internal security during peacetime.
Beijing’s forceful response on the ground comes ahead of the sensitive anniversary of riots between Uighurs and China’s ethnic majority Han four years ago that left around 200 dead.
In recent decades many Han Chinese have relocated to Xinjiang, which is rich in coal and gas, provoking friction.
The two communities tend to live in separate neighbourhoods in Urumqi, and a greater security presence could be seen in the Uighur area on Sunday.
Paramilitary forces stood in clusters every 100 metres or so around the grand bazaar, and police vehicles drove by occasionally.
On Friday, Xinhua said, more than 100 “terrorists” provoked “riots” in the prefecture of Hotan, attacking people “after gathering at local religious venues”.
Two days earlier “knife-wielding mobs” in Turpan prefecture’s Lukqun township, more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) away, attacked police stations and other sites before security personnel arrived and opened fire. At least 35 people were killed.
Beijing denies repressing China’s ethnic minorities, who make up less than 10 percent of the national population and enjoy some preferential policies.
Check out Aquila Style’s Eid Issue (August 2012) for in-depth look at the struggles in Xinjiang.