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Progressing Xinjiang vows counter-terrorism strike

Updated: 2013-01-27 00:08

URUMQI - Northwest China's Xinjiang on Saturday showcased its double-digit economic growth but also vowed to take preemptive action against separatists to maintain social stability.

An upcoming release of key figures on the development of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in 2012 is expected to show that the area's GDP grew by 12 percent year on year and its registered urban unemployment rate stayed below 3.4 percent, said Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang regional government.

"The disposable income of Xinjiang's urban residents is expected to have grown by 17 percent to reach over 18,000 yuan (around 2,800 U.S. dollars) in 2012 while the growth in net income for their rural counterparts is forecast to stand at 18.4 percent to reach over 6,400 yuan," the official told the opening session of Xinjiang's People's Congress, the regional legislature.

He underlined a series of livelihood-improving fields in which great progress has been made, citing the fields of infrastructure construction, environmental protection, poverty relief, employment and education.

According to Nur Bekri, 200,000 more residents got access to electricity while a rural population of 600,000 gained safe drinking water in 2012.

To protect the environment, the regional government has banned grazing on 150 million mu (10 million hectares) of grassland, and returned 13.8 million mu of farmland to grassland last year, he said.

The regional capital of Urumqi enjoyed fine air quality on 86 percent of days this winter, a record since 1995, thanks to increasing government efforts on curbing air pollution.

More than 1.5 million welfare houses have been built for rural residents and herdsmen in the past five years, said the chairman.

He added that 49,000 jobless people and 75,000 university graduates   unemployed since 2007 have found jobs under government help.

Nur Bekri also said the autonomous region is aiming to double the per capita income of its urban and rural residents by 2015 on the basis of the 2010 level.

The regional GDP by 2020 will be at least three times the figure of 2010, he said.

"We will strive to accelerate the socioeconomic development of Xinjiang, especially its southern part," said Nur Bekri as he delivered a government work report in the Uygur language.

Southern Xinjiang is densely populated by people of China's minority ethnic groups, mainly the Uygur.

The chairman said the regional government will commit to raising senior high school enrollment rates in southern Xinjiang, provide vocational training for all middle school graduates who do not seek further studies, and give quality bilingual education to students of different ethnic groups.

Despite all the achievements, Nur Bekri acknowledged that Xinjiang still faces many challenges.

"The economy still lags behind, with imbalanced economic growth among prefectures and an inappropriate economic structure," said the chairman. "The ecology is still fragile so energy conservation and emission reduction remain government priorities."

It is more difficult for government to reduce unemployment and help farmers to increase income, he said.

Nur Bekri said that the government's work over the past year was focused on achieving Xinjiang's leapfrog development and lasting stability, two "historic tasks" mapped out in 2010, by a high-level national central work conference.

The conference came one year after Xinjiang's most deadly unrest in decades, which left 197 people killed and about 1,700 others injured in the regional capital of Urumqi.

Authorities blamed separatists and extremists for inciting the violence in the autonomous region, which is vulnerable to unrest and terrorist threats. Many believed that poverty and income disparity were also causes.

Nur Bekri told the congress' gathering of over 500 delegates, over 43 percent of whom are Uygur people, that work to maintain Xinjiang's stability was carried out on a regular, scientific and legal basis last year.

"People's sense of safety and satisfaction have been further enhanced," he said.

However, the battle against the separatists is still severe, complicated and chronic, warned the chairman of Xinjiang, which covers one-sixth of China's landmass but still lags behind economically.

He vowed at the session to nip terrorist activity in the bud.

"We will annihilate the violent and terrorist activities while they are still being planned and before they are put into action," he said.

Experts warned that the foundations of regional stability are fragile  and the security challenge remains grave.

"Terrorist attacks occur continuously in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and eastern Uzbekistan, and the Taliban is still active. They stimulate the 'three forces' of separatism, extremism and terrorism in Xinjiang," said Gao Jianlong, head of the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

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