Xinjiang marks riot anniversary

By Qiu Yongzheng in Urumqi and Yang Jingjie Source:Global Times Published: 2013-7-5 0:48:01

Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will Friday witness the 4-year anniversary of deadly riots, with the region experiencing the heaviest security measures since 2009.

Observers said terrorists in the region, who are colluding with overseas separatist groups, and external geopolitical changes have aggravated the security threats to Xinjiang.

Friday marks the four-year anniversary of riots in the regional capital of Urumqi, which killed 197 people and injured about 1,700 others.

Since 2009 Xinjiang has intensified security measures around July 5 every year. Last week's violence in the region has made authorities particularly watchful.

Violence on June 26 killed 35 people, including 11 attackers, in the township of Lukqun, Turpan. It was followed by two riots in Hotan on June 28, though no casualties were reported.

To deal with the threats, armed police were mobilized on Saturday and were ordered to conduct 24-hour patrols regardless of weather conditions. Since then, anti-terror drills have been held across the region.

A Global Times reporter found a heavy presence of armed police officers and police vehicles at all major crossroads in Urumqi.

Wearing helmets, the officers patrolled the capital holding guns and shields.

In areas near the People's Square in the center of the city, the number of special police and armed police officers increased significantly.

Though life remains normal for residents, the number of tourists has dropped significantly. The Global Times learned from local restaurants, hotels and tourist agencies that many tourists chose to cancel their tours in the wake of the violence.

The Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar, a tourist attraction, remained open, but there were fewer tourists.

Zhang Chunxian, the region's Party chief, Wednesday once again vowed to keep severely cracking down on terrorists and violence, the Xinjiang Daily reported.

Xinjiang's Public Security Department Thursday said in a statement on its website that some criminals have turned themselves in, without revealing the number. It also vowed to show leniency to those who surrendered to authorities.

While security has been boosted in China, the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), the mastermind behind the riots on July 5, 2009, is organizing commemorations around the world.

The WUC said on its website that demonstrations will be taking place outside Chinese embassies, consulates and other relevant locations in order to maximize the attention drawn to this important anniversary.

Among the various groups attempting to separate Xinjiang from China, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement(ETIM) is the most dangerous one, and was recognized as a terrorist group by the UN in 2002.

An anti-terror Chinese official, who asked not to be named, told the Global Times that the ETIM is "the most direct security threat to Xinjiang."

Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that as a result of China's crackdown on terrorism, there is no established separatist group within the country. "But there are some scattered terrorist gangs that are closely connected to overseas groups," he said.

The Arab Spring, which saw groups with religious backgrounds coming into power in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, also fueled the desires of East Turkestan separatists, who hold extreme religious ideologies, to carry out more activities and violence, Zhao Weiming, director of the Center for Central Asia Studies at Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times.

Zhao also noted that given the fact that Western forces will withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism are returning to the country and penetrating Central Asia.

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