Development key to stabilising Xinjiang, says Li Keqiang

Western province of vital strategic importance to the country, says Chinese premier

Chinese premier Li Keqiang said development was the key to ensuring stability in the rebellious western province of Xinjiang and urged more employment for young people to ensure greater stability in the region.

The premier said Xinjiang was "of strategic importance for the country's overall situation" when addressing a panel at China's annual parliament, the National People's Congress, including the governor of the province and the local Communist Party chief.

Xinjiang’s 10 million-plus Turkic-speaking Uighurs are a largely Muslim ethnic group that shares close linguistic and cultural links to central Asia, and is quite distinct from Han Chinese.

Uighurs complain that Beijing is trying to crush their culture, while the government says it brings prosperity to the oil and gas-rich province, which remains economically underdeveloped in many areas.

Many of the Uighurs are in the south, and Mr Li focused on this area in particular.

Employment here was crucial and enterprises were needed in southern Xinjiang so "people, especially young people, have jobs, income-generating livelihoods," Mr Li said in remarks carried by the state-run Xinjiang Daily.

"Violence in Xinjiang and other parts of China started to intensify in 2014 and hundreds have been killed in a series of bombings, knife attacks and clashes with security forces, which the Beijing government blames on Islamist militants.

Investment plans

“Xinjiang’s development and stability . . . have bearing on national and ethnic unity and national security,” Mr Li said, adding he thought Xinjiang was “generally stable” at present.

Last week, Beijing unveiled plans to invest over €15 billion in Xinjiang in 100 projects covering employment, housing, agriculture and poverty relief among other areas. Education is also an area of prime focus.

Uighurs are especially angry about the teaching of Mandarin Chinese in Xinjiang schools at the expense of Uighur.