A ski resort in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China, on December 8 (XINHUA)
Dilshat, a resident of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China, once ran a family inn which brought her a good income and a satisfying life. Later, under the influence of religious extremist ideas, she suspected some patrons who dined under the apricot trees in the yard of her inn of being heretics who were soiling her orchard, so she chopped down the trees and shut down the inn. Her life quickly changed for the worse.
She realized the hazards of religious extremism after studying at a vocational education and training center. Once she graduated from the program, she reopened the family inn and her business is booming, which fills her with confidence and joy.
This story was recounted by Xu Hairong, Secretary of the Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) of Urumqi, capital city of Xinjiang, at a press conference in Beijing on December 9, days after the U.S. House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress, passed the so-called Uygur Human Rights Policy Act on December 3. The bill, which attacks the human rights situation in Xinjiang and distorts China's anti-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts, was passed by the U.S. Senate earlier in September.
The act totally disregards the facts, said Shohrat Zakir, Chairman of the Xinjiang Regional Government, at the press conference, adding that it seriously violates international law and basic norms, and grossly interferes in China's internal affairs.
Education and training
"There have been no violent terrorist incidents in Xinjiang for three consecutive years. Xinjiang has become significantly safer, and people's satisfaction with social stability has greatly increased," Zakir said.
In contrast, from 1990 to the end of 2016, Xinjiang suffered thousands of violent terrorist attacks, resulting in a large number of casualties and huge property losses.
"Today's stability and peace in Xinjiang are hard won," he said. "For a period of time, violent and terrorist activities frequently occurred in Xinjiang, and as a result, the right to subsistence and development of people of all ethnic groups was seriously trampled."
In response to the grim situation of violent terrorist activities in Xinjiang, vocational education and training centers were set up according to law, Zakir said, adding that they are an essential part of anti-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts in the region.
"People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang believe that without the vocational education and training programs, the current peaceful environment would be impossible," Xu said.
Zakir said trainees have all graduated after participating in programs consisting of standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law, vocational skills and de-radicalization at vocational education and training centers. With the help of the government, they have achieved stable employment and improved their quality of life, according to him.
His point was echoed by Xu, who gave some examples. Buzüra Roz, a graduate of a vocational education and training center, set up an embroidery cooperative with the skills he learned at the center and help from the local government. He led more than 30 local villagers to increase their income and climb out of poverty.
Another example is Zoram Abduyusuf, who detached himself from religious extremism after attending the program. In addition to cleaning up his own small courtyard when he returned, he also led his neighbors to clean up the village, becoming a role model.
Since the end of last year, over 1,000 people from 91 countries, including officials, diplomats, journalists and religious figures, have visited the vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang. Xu said many of them said the region's anti-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts are in line with the purposes and principles of the United Nations and are therefore worth commending and sharing.
"The anti-terrorism and de-radicalization measures we carry out in Xinjiang are essentially no different from those of many other countries in the world, including the United States. Some people in the United States need to abandon ideological prejudices and double standards on this issue," Zakir said.
Next on the agenda, Xinjiang will offer regular and open education and training for village officials, CPC members in rural areas, farmers and herdsmen, as well as unemployed middle school graduates on a voluntary and necessary basis, according to the regional government. Trainees will be able to join or leave the program as needed, and will mainly be taught standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law and vocational skills.
A farmer and her daughter in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on June 19 (XINHUA)
Benefits of stability
"Now society is harmonious and stable, creating conditions for economic development and the benefits of stability have been consistently delivered," said Erkin Tuniyaz, Vice Chairman of the Xinjiang Regional Government, at the press conference.
In recent years, Xinjiang has maintained healthy and sustained economic development, according to official statistics. Since 2012, its GDP has increased 8.5 percent year on year, faster than the national average. The per-capita disposable income of urban and rural residents has risen 8.4 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively.
In the past, people shunned Xinjiang for fear of terrorist attacks. As the region has become safer, tourism has surged. In 2018, Xinjiang received 150 million domestic and foreign tourists, a year-on-year increase of 40.1 percent.
In the first 10 months of the year, the number of tourist arrivals exceeded 200 million, an increase of 42.6 percent from a year earlier, Zakir said. During the same period, Xinjiang earned 341.73 billion yuan ($48.55 billion) in tourism revenue, and the travel industry added over 50,000 jobs.
Located on the Silk Road Economic Belt, Xinjiang has thrived through cooperation between China and other countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative. In the first 10 months of the year, the region's foreign trade volume rose 28 percent, Zakir said.
The region has set up a zone to pilot innovation-driven development, which is home to more than 130 production, education and research organizations. Last year, the added value of strategic emerging industries in Xinjiang increased 13 percent year on year, and the added value of hi-tech manufacturing soared 33 percent.
Xinjiang has received tremendous financial support for its development from the Central Government and other local authorities. Every year, the Central Government transfers nearly 400 billion yuan ($56.83 billion) to Xinjiang, and 19 economically developed provinces and municipalities also provide more than 15 billion yuan ($2.13 billion) to remote areas of the region under a pairing assistance program, Zakir said.
In Xinjiang, 70 percent of fiscal expenditure goes toward improving people's livelihood, such as boosting employment, funding education for students from poor families, offering free health checkups to residents and providing affordable housing to eligible households.
The region has also devoted significant efforts to poverty alleviation. More than 2.38 million people in the region have left poverty behind since 2014, with the poverty rate dropping from 22.84 percent to the current 6.51 percent.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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