China's Xi calls E. Turkestan 'frontline' in Kashgar visit
World Bulletin / News Desk
Police are the "fists and daggers in the fight against terrorism," China's President Xi Jinping said on a trip to the East Turkestan (Xinjiang) region where authorities say members of the native Muslim Uighur community are waging a violent separatist campaign.
Xi's tour, reported in state media late on Monday, was his first to the region since a ruling Communist Party conclave in November in which he ushered in a national security commission to combat foreign and domestic threats.
Xi has raised the pitch of his warnings on security threats after a spate of deadly attacks, including one in the southwestern city of Kunming in March in which 29 people were killed and 140 injured by knife-wielding attackers who the government said were separatists from East Turkestan.
"The Kashgar region is the front line in anti-terrorism and maintaining social stability," the official Xinhua news agency citied Xi as telling paramilitary police in the Silk Road city of Kashgar, that has been at the centre of much of the unrest.
"The situation is grim and complicated. The local level police stations are fists and daggers," Xi said.
The report, carried widely in state media, showed photographs of Xi touring police facilities.
"You must have the most effective means to deal with violent terrorists," Xi said at a police station where he was pictured inspecting a wall of various kinds of truncheons.
"Sweat more in peacetime to bleed less in wartime," he said.
Uighurs are Turkic-language speaking Muslims. Many of them chafe at Chinese controls on their culture and religion.
Unrest in East Turkestan has led to the deaths of more than 100 people in the past year has the Han Chinese authorities continue in their crackdown against Uighurs.
The government blames the violence on separatists from the Uighur community who want to establish an independent state. But rights advocates say China's harsh rule tramples on Uighurs' language and culture.
Many Uighurs complain they are denied economic opportunities amid an influx of Han Chinese into the region. Xi urged ethnic unity and encouraged students to seize the opportunity to learn both Chinese and the Uighur language.
"Learning two languages will not only make finding jobs easier, it more importantly will make contributions to promoting ethnic unity," Xi told school children and their teachers.
Earlier this week, Xi called on the Chinese public to build a "wall of bronze and iron" to fight terrorism, and "make terrorists become like rats scurrying across a street, with everybody shouting 'beat them'."
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the main Uighur exile group, the World Uyghur Congress, said in a emailed statement that China's policies were insincere and provoke unrest, not unity.
"Relying on armed force and monitoring deprives Uighurs of their freedom and proves the utter failure of China's local governance," he said.
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