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Xinjiang to Grow Fast
Special> Xinjiang to Grow Fast
UPDATED: June 8, 2009 NO. 23 JUNE 11, 2009
All Quiet on the Western Front
Kashgar, the forefront of the struggle against secession and terrorism in Xinjiang, is becoming more stable


TIME OF JOY: People dance in Renmin Park's Amusement Square in Kashgar, Xinjiang on May 16 

At the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, the largest existing mosque in China, more than 20,000 Muslims come here for worship every Friday. On other days, the number of Muslims worshipping here surpasses 2,000.

"We should be thankful for the state policy of religious freedom, so that we can enjoy such a stable and harmonious religious life," said 69-year-old Juma Tayir Damolla Aji, an imam at the mosque. "All normal and legal religious activities are protected by law.

Juma was referring to Kashgar's "sensitive" geographic position. As the west gate of China, Kashgar Prefecture is located in southwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. "Kashgar has always been in the forefront of the struggle against secession and terrorism in Xinjiang," said Zhang Jian, Deputy Secretary of the Kashgar Prefecture Committee of the Communist Party of China, during a group interview on May 16.

Covering an area of 162,000 square km, Kashgar has a population of 3.83 million, of which 90 percent are Uygurs, 8 percent are Han people and the remaining 2 percent are from other ethnic groups. The prefecture shares an 888-km border with Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and India.

"Because of its special geographic location, the high percentage of ethnic minorities and the large religious population, Kashgar has seen many separatist activities in its history, especially in modern times," Zhang said. According to him, since the 1990s, the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism from home and abroad have caused more than 350 incidents of violence and terrorism in Kashgar, such as bombings, assassinations and poisonings, killing more than 60 innocent people.

"However, the number of religious extremists and saboteurs is quite small, and the government and people have firmly gained the upper hand to maintain stability in Kashgar," Zhang said. According to him, since 2000, the local government has put down 54 separatist organizations. In 2008 alone, 22 separatist organizations were outlawed, with nearly 400 weapons captured.

In Zhang's opinion, firmly relying on government officials and the public is the source of strength in fighting against separatism. He told an interesting story to the media. In early 2007, the local government smashed a terrorist-training base in a mountain in Kashgar, and a dozen terrorists fled from the mountain. Among them, three terrorists fled to the orchard of an elderly Uygur woman and demanded she give them food. The woman said, "Now the policy is so good and the government is leading us to a better life. Why are you still doing sabotage? We won't give you any help." Seeing the terrorists not persuaded, the woman tried to keep them there by saying she was going to fetch some food and reported them to the government instead. The three terrorists were soon captured.

The local government is accelerating economic development and making it paramount in the government's work. According to Zhang, the economy in Kashgar has been growing at an annual rate of more than 20 percent in the last three years. In 2008, GDP in Kashgar reached 27.76 billion yuan ($4.06 billion), up 28.5 percent over the previous year. During the year, the prefecture registered industrial added value of 4.42 billion yuan ($647.14 million), a rise of 54.2 percent; fixed assets investment of 14.34 billion yuan ($2.1 billion), up 54.65 percent; foreign trade volume of $1.66 billion, up 41.5 percent; and foreign investment of 7.54 billion yuan ($1.1 billion), up 43.67 percent. The government has also been striving to improve the standard of living. In 2008, the per-capita net income of farmers in Kashgar reached 2,870 yuan ($420.2). In the meantime, the local, provincial and national government invested 3.1 billion yuan ($453.88 million) to improve local people's livelihood.

"Many people misunderstand security in Kashgar and think that it is unsafe here," Zhang told the media. "You may not know that the crime rate here is among the lowest in the country. You may go outside for leisure at any time and I can ensure your safety."

The fact is that at 10 p.m. local time (two hours behind Beijing time), Amusement Square in Kashgar's Renmin Park is filled with thousands of people dancing. At around the same time in nearby Renmin Square, many people are enjoying an opera performance. According to Yan Lihong, an official at Renmin Park, every year the park receives 3 million tourists and every night an average of 10,000 people enjoy their leisure time there, often dispersing to their homes after midnight.

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