Journalists visit a vocational education and training center in Moyu County in Xinjiang on July 20 (XINHUA)
Journalists from 24 countries visited China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 14-22 and witnessed its progress in cracking down on and preventing terrorism through interactions with local people. On July 23, Xinhua News Agency published an article on the trip. The following is an edited version:
A group of journalists from 24 countries visited northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 14-22 at the invitation of the State Council Information Office.
Besides Chinese journalists, others from countries including the United States, Russia, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran, interacted extensively with local farmers, students, clerics, workers as well as trainees at vocational education and training centers.
They agreed that the Chinese Government has made progress in cracking down on and preventing terrorism according to the law, safeguarding the religious freedom of its citizens, preserving the traditional culture of minority ethnic groups and improving people's livelihood.
An Australian journalist (center) checks out clothes at a market in Kashgar in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 19 (XINHUA)
Since the 1990s, the three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism both at home and abroad have plotted and organized thousands of violent terrorist activities, gravely damaging the stability, solidarity and progress in Xinjiang and trampling the fundamental human rights to life, health, property and development for its people.
At the Xinjiang International Convention and Exhibition Center, the media delegation watched an exhibition on major terrorist cases in the region.
Edvard Chesnokov, Deputy Director of the International News Department of Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Russian newspaper, said terrorism is a global threat, and combating it and building a peaceful society are the shared goals of all countries.
In recent years, Xinjiang has focused on the prevention of terrorism by striking at the root and source of the problem. It aims to forestall terrorist attacks by providing a platform for the people who have been influenced by extremist ideas and committed minor crimes so they can transform their thoughts, learn the Mandarin language, boost their legal awareness and master vocational skills.
There have been no violent terror crimes in Xinjiang in the past 30 months, authorities said.
"The preventive measures taken by the Chinese Government against terrorism have been effective and provide a model for other countries to learn from," said Obidov Mukhammad Dalimovich, President of the Fergana regional branch of the Creative Union of Journalists of Uzbekistan.
At the vocational education and training centers in the city of Artux and the counties of Shule, Wensu and Moyu, the journalists inquired in great detail about the trainees' life and education.
The trainees study Mandarin and laws, and take practical courses in dressmaking, auto repair, hairdressing, e-commerce, electrical work and farming.
At the center in Shule, the journalists were impressed by the spacious buildings, well-equipped lodging facilities and the ethnic dance performances put on by the trainees.
"This is a school, not a concentration camp," said Paolo Salom, Deputy Director of the International Department of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. "It's a place where people learn not only laws and regulations but also how to find a job and cope in modern society. To overcome extremism through education, no doubt, is the right way."
Abdulaziz Raddad A. Alrabie, Director of the Mecca office of Okaz, a Saudi Arabian newspaper, said the vocational education and training center is in no way a "concentration camp," but a school where people with extremist thoughts are transformed.
"I saw genuine smiles on the faces of the trainees I interviewed, and I can tell they are satisfied with their life and study at the center," Alrabie said.
A Turkish reporter (right) interviews a businessman at the International Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, capital city of Xinjiang , on July 15 (XINHUA)
Cultures and traditions preserved
During the nine-day tour, the delegation visited a number of religious institutions, including the Xinjiang Islamic Institute in Urumqi, capital city of the autonomous region, and the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, and inquired about the training of religious personnel and the maintenance of religious sites.
Khaled Jihad Abdul-Razzaq Al-Saleh, a journalist from the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Watan, said he didn't see any person whose religious freedom was interfered with, adding that the Muslims in Xinjiang enjoy the freedom to practice their religion.
Hashemi Seyedeh Sepideh Seyed Hashem, a reporter from the Iranian Students News Agency, commended the measures taken by the Chinese Government to protect religious freedom. "It's good to see everyone is free to choose their own religious beliefs," she said.
The journalists also visited the Xinjiang Muqam Art Troupe in Urumqi, the handicrafts bazaar in the old city of Kashgar and the Kirgiz embroidery research center in Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture. They interviewed local artists and craftspeople and were treated to a number of cultural performances.
Sakchai Pruedthipak, President of www.salika.co, a Thai social media website, said the performances demonstrated the Chinese Government's efforts to conserve ethnic traditions and cultures.
After watching a dance drama at the Xinjiang Grand Theater in the city of Changji, Syed Jawwad, CEO of India's Embassy News, posted pictures of the performance on social media, which garnered more than 300 comments from Indian netizens in two hours.
"The drama shows different kinds of ethnic dances. It was magical and eye-popping," Jawwad said. "Xinjiang is a place where you can find so many different cultures. I'll strongly recommend anyone who loves culture to visit Xinjiang."
Xinjiang is the largest provincial-level region in China in terms of landmass and also one of the less developed. The journalists visited the Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, the economic development zone in Kashgar and some village factories in southern Xinjiang, and were impressed by the social and economic progress in the region.
"Xinjiang now has modern factories and improved infrastructure. The residents live in well-maintained houses, work in factories and have stable incomes, and they are confident about the future," said Dalimovich, who has visited Xinjiang several times.
Abrar Naseem Wahla, an anchor from the Pakistan Television Corp., said he saw how local governments in Xinjiang are stepping up infrastructure construction, such as building roads, hospitals and tourist centers, and how they are working to provide more job opportunities for local residents.
The delegation also visited Kekeya in the Aksu Prefecture, located on the edge of the Taklimakan Desert. Once notorious for constant sandstorms, Kekeya has seen a marked improvement in its natural environment thanks to an afforestation project launched in 1986 that has erected a "green wall" with an area of around 77,000 hectares between the desert and nearby towns.
"I'm glad to see the desert has been converted into green fields with the efforts of the Chinese Government and local people. Such an environment helps people live better lives," Chesnokov said.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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