Anti-Chinese feeling 'rising' in Xinjiang

Published: Sunday, 2 October, 2005, 10:41 AM Doha Time

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BEIJING: China marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Xinjiang as an autonomous region yesterday, as activists said that anti-Chinese sentiment was rising in the Muslim-majority frontier region.

Muslim Uighurs militants, whom Beijing says are terrorists trying to split China, have been struggling for decades for self-determination in the remote northwestern region formally established on October 1, 1955.

China says its system of “autonomous regions for ethnic minorities allow them a degree of self-governance but activists say it is a means for Beijing to maintain tight control.

“Ever since the establishment of the autonomous region 50 years ago, Uighur government workers have never had the right to make decisions. They are all made by the Han Chinese, said Dilxat Raxit, of the World Uighur Congress, a Germany-based group seeking more freedoms for the region they call East Turkestan.

A delegation of Chinese leaders, led by security chief Luo Gan, were on hand in the Xinjiang capital Urumuqi for anniversary celebrations kicked off with a flag-raising and canon shots.

“The unprecedented achievements Xinjiang has made in the past 50 years have proven that only by upholding the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and taking the socialist path can there be ... happiness for Xinjiang people from all ethnic groups, Luo said at the ceremony broadcast live on state television.

But despite the gala song and dance shows aimed at showcasing ethnic unity, Luo also repeated warnings of potential violence.
“We have to further ... oppose and crackdown on forces of ethnic separatism, religious extremism and violent terrorism and safeguard social stability and national security, he said.

Earlier this week Luo told police to “prepare for danger in Xinjiang, accusing dissidents of plotting to sabotage the celebrations.
The United States also warned American travellers ahead of the anniversary to be vigilant against terrorist attack there.

The Public Security Ministry last month labelled East Turkestan forces the main terrorist threat to China and said more than 260 terrorist acts had been committed in Xinjiang in the past two decades, killing 160 and wounding 440.

But a report this year by Human Rights Watch said China was using its support for the war on terror to justify a wider crackdown on Uighurs that was characterised by arbitrary arrests, closed trials and the use of the death penalty.

Among the most prominent Uighur activists is Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur businesswoman freed in March and exiled to the United States after serving years in jail on charges of leaking state secrets.

The World Uighur Congress said October 1 should be marked as a day of mourning in the region and added that while the group did not support violence, frustration with Chinese rule was growing.
“The Uighur people in East Turkestan are in a very hopeless, desperate and frustrated situation. Continued hopelessness could lead to violence, the group said in a statement.

China yesterday kicked off its National Day holiday, a commemoration of the 1949 Communist revolution which has turned into a week-long spending spree for wealthy urbanites.
Fifty-six years after China’s Communist founding father Mao Zedong declared in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that “China had stood up , consumers have arisen and are displaying awesome buying power.

“It’s mad, said a taxi driver. “I’m making so much money today from people who go shopping or sightseeing.

On Wangfujing street, one of Beijing’s main shopping areas, thousands of people, many of them domestic tourists from other parts of China, were taking advantage of the numerous National Day promotions the businesses had arranged.

China has three week-long holidays a year, and each has evolved into an opportunity for prosperous city-dwellers to spend their wealth.

The country will see 370mn domestic and overseas arrivals and departures during the National Day holiday, also known as Golden Week, the China Daily reported.

About 330mn trips will be taken by road, mostly long-distance buses, an increase of 3% from last year.

Another 38mn train tickets will be sold, up 3.8%, while sales of air tickets will rise 12% from last year to 2.6mn, according to the paper.

Beijing International Airport was being stretched to the limit, seeking to restrict the number of take-offs and landings to no more than one a minute.

Trips abroad are an increasingly popular option as the government allows tourists to visit more foreign destinations.

The China Daily also suggested that a slight, 2% revaluation of the currency that took take place earlier this year may give an additional boost to overseas travel.-AFP