Muslim teenagers from China’s remote Xinjiang province are being ‘bewitched’ into carrying out acts of terror by forces based both within and outside the country, the government said on Thursday in a new policy paper on the conflict-ridden region.
The government’s announcement comes a day after at least five police officers were allegedly stabbed to death by separatists in a knife attack at a coal mine in the region, US-based Radio Free Asia reported on Wednesday.
China usually blamed foreign forces for such attacks and instigating violence in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.
But in a rare shift in the policy document released Thursday, it said: “Since the 1990s, the three forces (ethnic separatism, religious extremism, and violent terrorism) working from bases both inside and outside China have planned and staged a series of incidents of terror and violence, such as explosion, assassination, poisoning, arson, assault and riot, in Xinjiang and elsewhere…”
Hundreds of people have died in the region, home to the Muslim Uighur community, violence in recent years, which rights activists say is a reaction to the government’s hard-line policies on religion and local religion and culture that have alienated the minority community.
The white paper, titled ‘Historical Witness to Ethnic Equality, Unity and Development in Xinjiang’ was issued by the State Council Information Office on Thursday.
The release of the document coincided with a senior member of the Xinjiang Communist Party saying that the custom of women wearing face veils is not a tradition in Xinjiang or any Muslim country, but is a symbol of extremism and backwardness.
The document said that…“Muslims, especially teenagers, with such heretical ideas as ‘the shahid (martyr) engaged in jihad (holy war) can live in the garden of Paradise’, thus turning some individuals into extremists and terrorists…”
“The tendency of frequent eruptions of violent and terrorist attacks in Xinjiang has been somewhat checked,” the document said, adding: “The public security organs are on high alert for signs of violent attacks and terrorism, and respond with the utmost severity”.
The paper said the Chinese government was focused on Xinjiang’s development, maintaining stability and social harmony between all the communities in the region.
It said Beijing has pumped almost 1.7 trillion yuan ($266.6 billion) to the region over the past 60 years.