President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called for strengthening ethnic unity and social stability in the country, days after the government said separatists from Xinjiang were behind the deadly knife attacks in Kunming that left 33 including four suspects dead and injured more than 140.
Xi said his government would oppose any “words and actions” that could damage the country’s ethnic unity.
"We will build a 'wall of bronze and iron' for ethnic unity, social stability and national unity," he said at a panel discussion with members from the minority ethnic groups of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Xi, was quoted by the official news agency, Xinhua, as saying that the tradition of all ethnic groups in the country “breathing the same air and sharing the same fate” should be handed down from generation to generation.
“Unity and stability are blessings, while secession and turmoil are disasters,” he said, adding: “People of all ethnic groups of the country should cherish ethnic unity.”
According to Xinhua, Xi also urged that everything possible be done to accelerate the social and economic development of China's minority ethnic groups and the ethnic areas and to bring concrete benefits to people there.
China is home to 56 ethnic groups with the Han community accounting for about 91.6% of the country’s population; the remaining 55 including the Muslim Uyghurs from Xinjiang region and the Buddhist Tibetans in swathes of central and southern China are designated as ethnic minorities.
Allegations of hardline and repressive policies against the Uyghurs – linked to Saturday’s attacks in Kunming – and Tibetans have marred relations between the government and these two ethnic groups.