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50th Founding Anniversary of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Marked
The 50th anniversary of the founding of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was celebrated at a grand gathering in the regional capital, featured by a 50-gun solute, dove flying, the issue of commemorative stamps and other activities.

The celebration began at 11:00 AM with China's national anthem played and national flag hoisted amid the sounding of a 50-gun salute and the flying of 5,000 doves.

The founding of the autonomous region on Oct. 1, 1955 marked a "new historical phase of Xinjiang's development," Luo Gan, head of the central government delegation, told an audience of 12,000 people at the Hongshan Sports Stadium.

"Earth-shaking changes have taken place in Xinjiang in the past 50 years" under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, he said. According local statistics, the value of gross domestic production in the region hit 220 billion yuan in 2004, 42 times more than 50 years ago.

He pledged that the central government, as well as developed regions in east China, will continue to support Xinjiang in economic development "so as to jointly promote prosperity and development in Xinjiang and ensure lasting political and social stability in the northwestern frontier of the country."

In a separate speech delivered on Friday, Luo also called for efforts to strengthen national unity and resolutely fight separatists, extremists and terrorists.

At the heartland of the Euro-Asian continent, this northwestern most region of China covers an area of more than 1.66 million square kilometers, or one sixth of China's total land area. This makes it the largest provincial level administrative region in China.

Xinjiang is expected to become China's largest crude oil and natural gas producing area in five years. The Tarim Basin, Junggar Basin and another basin have a combined reserve of 20.9 billion tons of oil and 10 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, making up more than one fourth of China's oil and gas reserves on land.

A Chinese oil official once said jokingly that "if oilfields of Xinjiang sneeze, the office building of the Ministry of Oil Industry will shake."

In addition, Xinjiang accounts for 40 percent of China's coal reserves.

Xinjiang is also known for its high output of palatable fruits and varied terrains, ranging from high mountains, Gobi deserts to vast grasslands and glaciers, which attracts a growing number of tourists.

There are 47 ethnic groups in Xinjiang. The population of minority ethnic groups number 11.83 million, or around 60 percent of the total population in Xinjiang.

Establishment of the autonomous region turned over a new leaf in the history of Xinjiang. Today, officials from minority ethnic groups account for 51.8 percent of the total in the region. More than 60 percent of students here enjoy free compulsory education. More than 97 percent of school-age children here go to school.

Over the 50 years, the central government provided 47 percent of the investment in fixed assets in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang was liberated peacefully in 1949. On Oct. 1, 1955, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was officially founded.

A grand art performance featuring dances and songs full of Uygur flavors was staged at the celebration.

Also on Saturday, 9.5 million sets of stamps were issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Stamp companies in Beijing, Shandong and other places of the country also issued first day covers of the same theme.

(Xinhua News Agency October 2, 2005)

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