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Special> NPC & CPPCC Sessions 2010> Latest
UPDATED: March 8, 2010
Xinjiang Official Stresses Fighting Separatism, Says 198 Sentenced for Deadly Riot
A senior official of Xinjiang stressed here Sunday the fight against separatism as he announced 198 people have been sentenced in connection with a deadly riot in the remote northwestern Chinese region last July

A senior official of Xinjiang stressed here Sunday the fight against separatism as he announced 198 people have been sentenced in connection with a deadly riot in the remote northwestern Chinese region last July.

Those people were tried in 97 separate cases and the final figure of the people sentenced will likely be higher, because the investigations, prosecution and trials are still going on, the regional government chairman, Nur Berkri, said.

"China is a socialist country ruled by law, and the dignity of law allows no violation and the interests of people cannot be encroached upon," he told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature.

"Any criminal activity that undermines social order and damages people's life and property will be punished by law," he said.

"That is a basic value universally recognized by international communities, and also a social responsibility that a responsible government must undertake."

Local authorities earlier said the riot in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi on July 5, 2009 left 197 people dead and more than 1,700 injured.

"The figures have not changed by now," Nur Berkri said.

The July 5 riot demonstrated that the fight against separatism in Xinjiang will be a long-term, complicated and acute task, he said.

He said a few secessionists are reluctant to see the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang to live a happy life with the leadership of the Communist Party of China and in the big family of the motherland, and they do everything possible to sabotage ethnic relations, distort Xinjiang's history, and advocate separation.

"They're reluctant to accept failure after the July 5 riot. We believe they will become more violent and will launch new attacks," he said.

"But no matter what methods they use, they are doomed to failure," he said.

Nur Berkri also told reporters that it will not "take long" for people in Xinjiang to have a full access to Internet that was cut after the riot.

So far, Xinjiang Internet users had access to all commercial websites and 31 popular portal websites, such as Xinhuanet.com and Sohu.com, he said.

Wealth gap not ethnic issue

The imbalance of living standards in Xinjiang is a regional issue, rather than an ethnic one, Nur Berkri said at the press conference.

The imbalance is mainly seen between different regions, urban and rural residents and between industries, he said.

In the region, underdevelopment is usually caused by history, inadequate natural resources, environment and low production level, in stead of ethnic factors, he said.

The living standards of people in Xinjiang have constantly improved in the past years, especially since the central government launched the Western Development campaign a decade ago, he said.

He said the region's GDP grew 8 percent to 427 billion yuan last year.

"We firmly believe wealth gaps in Xinjiang would be gradually narrowed," he said.

Renovation of Kashi's old city

The renovation of the old city zone in Kashi demonstrated the Chinese government's concerns for the lives of local residents, Akbar Hupur, commissioner of Kashi Prefecture, told the same press conference.

He said that the renovation work was carried out according to the national conservation standards for historical and cultural cities.

"The renovation of the old city zone in Kashi is a project that complied with the wishes of the people," he said.

With a history of more than 2,000 years, Kashi was historically the gateway and hub for the transfer of goods from China to central Asia and Europe on the ancient Silk Road with its culture featuring distinctive ethnic Uygur characteristics.

But the city is located in an area frequently hit by earthquakes, and houses in the old city of Kashi are mostly old and dilapidated, extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and fire.

Akbar Hupur said the purpose of the Kashi renovation was to protect people's lives and property, and improve their living conditions, while enhancing the quake-resistance of the old houses and preserving the original appearance of the ancient city.

The region planned to complete the comprehensive restoration of dilapidated homes within 28 blocks inside old Kashi city, which encompasses 65,000 households and 220,000 residents, said the commissioner.

He quoted a report by the China Office of the UNESCO in June 2009 as saying that the renovation of old towns in Kashi had kept their original architectural and cultural characteristics and maintained local people's traditional way of life.

(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2010)

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