Authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region announced Monday that they arrested over 380 suspects and smashed 32 gangs in the first month of a year-long anti-terrorism campaign which started on May 23.
The Xinjiang Public Security Department said Monday at a press conference that among the arrested, 315 people linked to 120 terror-related cases had been convicted in open trials, Wang Qianrong, the deputy head of the department, was quoted as saying by local news portal ts.cn.
These cases involved plotting and conducting terrorist attacks, spreading religious extremism, manufacturing guns and explosives, and illegally crossing international borders, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
The police also confiscated about 100 computers and 1,700 books on terrorism and religious extremism during raids on 21 illegal preaching sites and training camps. A total of 264 explosive devices, 3.15 tons of explosives and 357 controlled knives have also been seized.
"The impact of the campaign is obvious when we look at the numbers," Turgunjan Tursun, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
However, Tursun believes China's anti-terrorism efforts have become increasingly difficult due to the unorthodox nature of Xinjiang's terror groups.
"Most terrorists in Xinjiang do not operate under structured and centralized organizations, but in small gangs loosely spread over the region," he said.
"The influence of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the group often believed to be the mastermind behind most attacks in Xinjiang, is only limited to the ideological level, he noted.
"The attackers may have been exposed to religious and ethnic extremism through publications and videos the ETIM released, but the two groups are not in direct contact and do not operate under a hierarchical relationship," he said.
Tursun said that China is still weak when it comes to collecting intelligence from these scattered terrorist groups and lacks comprehensive and professional research into the field.
Among the 32 extremist groups busted, 11 were found via public tip-offs. Police also claimed that 96 percent of the 126 cases were identified and quashed before the attacks were launched.
Yang Mingjie, an anti-terrorism expert with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that public vigilance is the most essential aspect of fighting terrorism.
"Not only can the public report suspicious people to stop possible attacks, they can also stop the spread of extremist ideas such as reporting underground lectures or training camps around their community," noted Yang.
As part of the nationwide precautionary measures, some cities and provinces across the country, including Beijing and Henan, have recently announced reward schemes to encourage public tip-offs. Harbin, in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, announced that residents who provide related information will receive a cash reward of up to 500,000 yuan ($80,300) from June 20.