Free Press Journal

Extremism, infiltration rising in Xinjiang: Chinese official


Beijing: A top Chinese official in the troubled Xinjiang province has warned of an escalation of “infiltration and sabotage activities in the name of religion” and called the battle with extremism a “serious political struggle.” Chief of the ruling Communist Party of China Zhang Chunxian’s comments highlight the Chinese authorities’ determination to combat extremism as they see this problem not only as a security threat but also as a political danger as extremists seek to topple the government, state-run Global Times reported.

“There have been escalated infiltration and sabotage activities from foreign hostile forces that are disguised as religion,” Zhang said, adding that the battle against religious extremism is a serious political struggle and there is no room for conciliation.

Zhang, secretary of the CPC Xinjiang Committee, said this at a conference of religious leaders in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on Sunday. More than 700 religious leaders from six different religions, including Islam, Buddhism and Christianity, attended the conference on religious extremism. Xinjiang bordering Pakistan Occupied Kashmir(PoK) and Afghanistan has witnessed the most violent terrorist attacks allegedly carried by the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement(ETIM) in recent times.

The province which has over 11 million Uygur Muslims experienced ethnic tensions over large scale settlements of majority Hans from other provinces. “Religious extremism is not about religion. It’s a political force with an agenda that goes completely against this government. Especially in Xinjiang, it’s a life-and-death fight,” said Turgunjan Tursun, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

Terrorists in the past year have attacked train stations, police stations and government buildings, mostly in Xinjiang, throwing bombs at police cars and running over civilians with vehicles.

Xinjiang police cracked down on 181 terror groups in 2014 and 96 per cent of terrorist plots were disrupted at an early stage, the local government said. Zhang also called for the strengthened recognition of national identity and Chinese culture. “What these religious figures can do is limited. The government has come to understand that their work should focus more on preaching and drawing people to the government’s side instead of actually stopping terror activities,” Tursun said.