News / Asia

China Breaks Up Xinjiang Terror Group

The Chinese government says it has broken up a major terrorist organization that plotted attacks in the far northwestern region, Xinjiang.  Thursday's announcement comes nearly a year after the region was hit by deadly ethnic violence that left nearly 200 people dead.  

Chinese Public Security Ministry spokesman Wu Heping said Chinese public security authorities have arrested more than 10 terrorists, including the alleged ringleader of the group. Two Xinjiang incidents specifically mentioned by the spokesman both occurred around the 2008 Beijing Olympics - deadly attacks on police stations in Kashgar and Kuqa.

At a meeting with reporters in Beijing, Thursday, Wu read out a brief statement, but did not take questions.  A document handed out at the media briefing included photos of two places where the terrorists had allegedly made and tested explosives, along with other weapons.

China said the alleged terrorists belong to the East Turkestan Independence Movement.  Both the United States and the United Nations have officially listed ETIM a terrorist organization.   

China recently announced it is setting up a special economic development zone in Kashgar to transform the western border city into a trading hub with the country's Central Asian neighbors.

Officials say preferential taxation and investment policies will be finalized as early as the end of this year.

Ilham Tohti, a Uighur who teaches at Beijing's Nationalities University, suggests there is a political dimension to the Chinese government's investments in Xinjiang. Beijing has spent a great deal of money in Xinjiang in an effort to control the Uighur minority, Tohti said.  Uighurs are not benefiting because they are not being hired for any of the new jobs.

Instead, said Tohti, the economic frenzy has driven up prices in cities in Xinjiang, so that the Uighurs can no longer afford to buy a house or even to buy meat to eat.

The Uighur instructor does not advocate splitting Xinjiang from China, but believes Uighurs and Hans need to learn more about each other so they can get along better. His personal efforts have so far hit a roadblock.  Chinese authorities have blocked access to Tohti's Chinese-language website focused on Xinjiang, uighurbiz-dot-net.

Xinjiang is a vast, resource-rich region that borders Central Asia.

The rioting last July between the region's eight million Muslim Uighurs and members of China's ethnic Han majority was the worst communal violence to hit Xinjiang in years.

Beijing accuses Uighur activists of trying to split Xinjiang off from China.  Uighurs, in turn, charge the government with discrimination and decades of repressive rule.

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