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Ismail Tiliwaldi: Xinjiang's future can't be sabotaged
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Ismail Tiliwaldi, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress and ex-chairman of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region (2003-07), was recently interviewed by a group of foreign journalists in Beijing. The following are excerpts from the interview, reported by Xinhua News Agency.

What occurred in Urumqi on July 5 was tragic and traumatic for residents of all ethnic backgrounds in Xinjiang. There are enough facts to prove that the incident is a serious violent crime directed and incited from abroad, and executed inside the country by the separatists, extremists and terrorists, or the "three forces".

The brawl between Han and Uygur workers in a toy factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong province on June 26 was a public order incident, which was properly handled. However, the "three forces" abroad took advantage of it as an opportunity to foment unrest.

After the incident, the separatist elements abroad continued instigation through the Internet, television and telephone with slander and rumors, and incited separatists to attack Chinese diplomatic missions abroad.

The violent crimes of July 5 involving beating, smashing, looting and burning are illegal in any country. We should punish those outlaws who inflicted great loss of life and property on people of diverse ethnicities.

I have lived in Kashgar for 26 years and witnessed some violence there. Most of these incidents were remotely directed by separatists from abroad, and aimed at sabotaging ethnic unity, harming social stability and separating Xinjiang from China. So the July 5 incident is neither an ethnic conflict nor a religious struggle, but a separatist plot.

Those responsible for the riot should be punished in accordance with the law; but others, deceived into taking part by separatists, should be educated. Most people in Xinjiang wish to maintain ethnic unity. A few separatists cannot affect the Uygur people's stand. A few separatists accused China of forced migration of Han people to Xinjiang. I have never heard of this sort of "migration policy". Xinjiang is a region of great potential, and people from many ethnic groups come here to seek their fortune. The region has close economic cooperation with nearby countries, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Equality, friendship and fraternity among different ethnic groups are Chinese traditions that played a notable role in the economic and social development of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in past decades. Ethnic minorities have been granted preferential policies in many aspects. For example, compared with Han people, ethnic minorities are not bound by the one-child family planning policy.

The consistent policy bias favoring ethnic minorities is embodied in the development program of western China as well as respect for the religious beliefs and cultural heritage of ethnic minorities.

Pursuing peace as the principal objective of its foreign policy, China has built friendly relations with most, including Muslim, countries in the world. These countries understand the position of Chinese government, as borne out by the fact that only a few people echoed the lies of the separatists. The Chinese government is opposed to any interference in China's internal affairs and will never interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

People in some countries might have insufficient understanding or even misunderstand the situation of Chinese ethnic groups and religions. To address this, our long-term task will be to publicize our domestic ethnic and religious policies, progress of reform and opening up to the international community, including Muslim countries.

Economic reform and development have opened new avenues for Uygur people to seek prosperity and well being by working outside Xinjiang. Like workers from other parts of China, it is common for Uygur workers to migrate to other provinces for employment, which increases the income of Uygur households, and exposes Uygurs to advanced technology and skills.

It is common to see Uygur people working in factories, running catering service, or starting up enterprises in areas outside Xinjiang. The economic exchanges between Xinjiang and other parts of China are crucial for development of Xinjiang, which enjoyed astonishingly robust economic growth.

The nominal GDP of Xinjiang has expanded more than 100-fold in the past two decades. Per capita GDP has surged from 313 yuan in 1978 to almost 20,000 yuan last year. Its foreign trade has grown at an incredible pace: In 1978, total exports and imports were $23 million; last year it was a staggering US$22.2 billion.

People's real income and living standards have markedly improved. In the rural areas of Xinjiang, average income per year was 119 yuan in 1978; now it is 3,500 yuan.

Along with its stunning economic growth, Xinjiang has achieved much on the cultural, educational, scientific, and healthcare fronts. Now, the nine-year compulsory education is available for every child in Xinjiang, and the illiteracy rate is in constant decline. In the 1950s, there was only one university in Xinjiang; now there are more than 30.

Despite the July 5 incident, the central government will continue to support Xinjiang's development and its people. With abundant natural resources and assistance from the central government and other provinces, Xinjiang's future promises to be even more prosperous.

(China Daily July 20, 2009)

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