Anti-secession law on way for restive Chinese province

 

CHINA IS introducing fresh anti-separatist laws in riot-scarred Xinjiang to help combat independence campaigns by Muslim Uighurs.

The government says rioters had stockpiled weapons and had planned synchronised attacks on various targets, in comments regarding the violence in the city of Urumqi earlier this month.

Xinjiang’s top legislator, Eligen Imibakhi, described ignorance about existing laws as an “urgent problem”, and told the Xinhua news agency that the government was planning to distribute legal booklets in indigenous languages to herdsmen, traders and farmers throughout the desert region.

In early July a peaceful march protesting the death of two Uighurs in a factory in southern China turned violent after it was stopped by police. Uighurs went on the rampage, attacking Han Chinese – China’s dominant ethnic group – burning cars and shops and smashing windows. Two days later, vigilante groups of ethnic Han seeking revenge took to the streets and attacked Uighurs. All told, nearly 200 people died.

The new laws will be a regional version of existing anti-secession laws targeted at self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province. Mr Imibakhi blamed the July 5th riots on “three forces” – extremism, separatism, and terrorism – both at home and abroad, and said the new laws would “provide legal assistance to Xinjiang’s anti-secession struggle and the cracking down on violence and terrorism”.

The Uighurs, who account for around nine million of Xinjiang’s 20 million people, are angry at the influx of Han Chinese into the territory and restrictions on their religion, language and culture, as well as the stripping of the region’s natural resources by Beijing. Han Chinese say the Uighurs should be grateful for Beijing’s investment in Xinjiang’s backward economy.

Police said the rioters had planned synchronised attacks on targets across Urumqi, and that some of the ringleaders were women in Islamic headscarves seen in security camera footage issuing “commands”, the China Daily newspaper reported.

The Chinese government blames exiled Uighurs for masterminding the violence, including exiled activist Rebiya Kadeer.

In a bid to keep a lid on growing tensions, the city of Urumqi has hosted a multi-ethnic beauty pageant with contestants from ethnic groups including Han, Uighur, Kazak and Hui, Xinhua said. Six Uighur models were among the 45 contestants who vied for the title of 2009 Miss Tourism International in Xinjiang.