BEIJING, Aug. 8 (UPI) — Religious extremists in northwestern China’s ethnically tense Xinjiang-Uighur region will face a harsh crackdown, the area’s top Communist Party official said.
Zhang Chunxian ordered the crackdown following the recent deadly violence in Kashgar city, which has been blamed on Islamic extremists trained in Pakistan, which is a close ally of China.
Zhang ordered cadres and officials to rely on the public to unswervingly curb illegal religious activities and crack down on the use of the religion to incite violence or organize terrorist attacks, Xinhua news agency reported.
He said the managing of religious affairs should follow Beijing’s policy to “protect the legitimate, ban the illegal, fight infiltration and crack down on crimes.”
Violence has been rising in the border Xinjiang-Uighur region, where the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs resent being ruled by Han Chinese.
At least 19 people reportedly died in the Kashgar incident, which China’s official media said started with a truck hijacking and attacks on civilians.
Suspects captured after the attacks said the group’s leaders learned how to make explosives and firearms in camps run by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a terrorist group in Pakistan, China Daily had reported.
The Kashgar government called the attacks “acts of terror … intended to sabotage ethnic unity … instigate hatred and see Xinjiang secede from the country.”
Xinjiang-Uighur is close to Pakistan and several central and west Asian countries. China describes Pakistan as its “all-weather friend.”
In a similar incident last month in the same region, at least 20 people died in Hotan city. The region also was the scene of rioting in July 2009 in Urumqi, where 197 people in the worst such ethnic violence.
Xinhua said the region with a large Muslim Uighur population is at China’s “frontline against separatism, extremism and terrorism.”