Expo to present balanced image of Xinjiang

By Xu Yan Source:Global Times Published: 2011-9-2 2:11:00

Despite the silent tension in the air, Xinjiang launched its first China-Eurasia Expo in a seemingly festive mood on Thursday. The five-day event can present a balanced image of the region, rather than a dazzling display of achievements, noted local officials and residents.

Expectations of the expo are high. The event, upgraded from the 19-year-old China Urumqi Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Fair, has drawn worldwide attention, bringing together officials, business leaders from more than 30 countries, international organizations and 1,400 journalists.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang told participants at the opening ceremony on Thursday that the nation will give full play to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region's role in opening up to countries in the Eurasian heartland, according to the Xinhua News Agency. 

Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang regional government, also described the event as a key move in the country's overall opening-up strategy and said, "We need to make the expo a name-card" for Xinjiang, Xinhua reported.

The expo comes one month after a spate of terrorist attacks in the restive region, which is home to multiple ethnic groups including Uyghur and Han.

The three violent incidents left at least 16 civilians and police officers dead in Hotan and Kashi, and were carried out with the intention of "sabotaging inter-ethnic unity," according to the official website of the Kashi government.

Tightened security is evident at all sensitive points across Xinjiang, and was even expanded to airports in Beijing and Shanghai. Police have thwarted several attempts to sabotage public safety in the run-up to the expo, Xinhua reported.

"Their presence instills a sense of security in my life," a Han tour guide in Kashi who requested anonymity told the Global Times, referring to the armed police and SWAT teams deployed in parts of the city, also known as Kashgar, where Uyghur residents make up about 80 percent of the population. 

She said life had returned to normal after the bloody incidents, including the infamous July 5 riot in 2009, but there was still a long way to go before the city can be free of ethnic conflict, adding inter-ethnic marriages between Uyghur and Han residents were still a rare sight in the region. 

"The July 5 riot was so damaging that full recovery from its wounds will take at least 10 years," a senior official with the autonomous region's department of commerce who requested anonymity told the Global Times recently.

Another senior official with the region's human resources and social security department told the Global Times that outsiders often oversimplify Xinjiang's problems as being related to ethnic issues. "Growth is growth. Anti-terror is anti-terror. We need to differentiate and find the right solution to each of them," he said.

The first China-Eurasia Expo, currently underway, exemplifies what the officials have said. Amid the mounting pressure of anti-terrorism efforts, both Kashi and Hotan have sent large delegations to the expo.

Officials with the publicity department of the Kashi CPC committee said that their delegation of 300 officials and businessmen were attending the expo, to sign contracts valued at 27.485 billion yuan ($4.31 billion).

"It would be unrealistic to expect the region to be perfectly free of problems. There will be small ones here and there, like other parts of the country. We will go all out to curb problems like terrorist attacks," regional officials said.

Posted in: China Watch

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