Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China Shen Zhifei
Situated in northwest China, Xinjiang is one of the 5 autonomous regions of ethnic minorities in China. It is a land that enjoys beautiful scenery and prosperity but also used to be rampant with violent terrorism and religious extremism.
Xinjiang is by no means to become the paradise for terrorism. Since the 1990s, the “three evil forces” (terrorism, extremism and separatism) in China and abroad have plotted, organized and conducted thousands of violent terrorist attacks including bombings, assassinations, poisoning, arson, assaults, unrest and riots, causing the deaths of a large number of innocent people and hundreds of police officers, as well as immeasurable property damage. On July 5, 2009, the “East Turkistan” forces inside and outside China engineered a riot in Urumqi which shocked the whole world. Thousands of terrorists attacked civilians, government organs, public security and police officers, residential houses, stores, and public transportation facilities, causing 197 deaths and injuries to over 1,700, smashing and burning down 331 stores and 1,325 vehicles, and damaging many public facilities. Clamoring for “opposition to all ethnic groups other than Turks” and for the “annihilation of pagans”, the horrific crimes of terrorists trampled upon the essential human rights of people of all ethnic groups in the region, such as their rights to life, health, property, and development. The Chinese government could by no means sit by idly and remain indifferent to that, and never allows another “ISIS” formed in Xinjiang. The fight against terrorism and extremism is exactly the responsibility that the Chinese government fulfills aimed at protecting the human right of Chinese people of all ethnic groups including those in Xinjiang.
China’s counterterrorism should not be demonized. Fighting terrorism and extremism is an issue of the world and a hard nut to crack. Countries have realized that a comprehensive approach encompasses not only “hard” security-based counter-terrorism measures but also “soft” preventive steps that accord with their own conditions. Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism adopted by UN calls for providing education and economic benefits to address the underlying conditions that drive individuals to radicalize and join violent extremist groups. The governments of the UK, France, and the US have all issued counter-terrorism strategies to underline the importance of early intervention in the cases of people under the influence of extremism. Based on its own conditions, Xinjiang has been making intensive counterterrorism and de-radicalization efforts. Upholding the principle of fighting and preventing terrorism at the same time, the autonomous region has been taking aggressive action against violent terrorist crimes, and at the same time, addressing the problem at its source. It has been making every effort to protect the fundamental human rights of citizens from violation by terrorism and extremism as well as to prevent them from becoming victims of terrorism and extremism. Specific measures include improving public wellbeing, promoting knowledge of the law through education, and offering education and aid through vocational education and training centers in accordance with the law. The trainees advance from learning the country’s common language to learning legal knowledge and vocational skills. Based on local job demand, training programs including the making of garments, footwear and hats, food processing, assembly of electronic products, typesetting and printing, cosmetology and hairdressing, e-business, and other courses are provided. A human right, customs, and habits of various ethnic groups and their beliefs in diet and daily life are respected and protected. Most trainees are therefore better suited to social development and modern life, able to earn a living and even run their own businesses, so as to shake off the influence and control of terrorism and extremism.
China’s counterterrorism never targets any specific ethnic group or religion. Terrorism and extremism go against human civilization and are the common enemy of the international community. China strikes at all sorts of terrorism and extremism but never targets any specific ethnic group or religion. Xinjiang is home to 13 ethnic groups, 6 major religions, and more than 24 million citizens. The Uyghurs account for about 48 percent of the entire population and the Hans about 37 percent. The people of all Xinjiang’s ethnic groups enjoy the same status and the same rights and must fulfill the same obligations in accordance with the law. Their political rights as citizens are fully protected. Ethnic minorities enjoy the freedom of religious belief. In Xinjiang, there are around 10 Muslim ethnic groups, 24,400 mosques, 29,000 clerical personnel, and 8 religious colleges. On average 530 Muslims share one mosque, at a leading place globally. Normal religious activities are protected in accordance with the law.
The stability, prosperity, and development that Xinjiang enjoys today is the best answer to those who have doubts about Xinjiang’s counterterrorism efforts. China’s strike at terrorism and extremism has created a stable environment and favorable conditions for economic and social development of Xinjiang and the improvement of people’s livelihood. Since the launch of China’s reform and opening-up drive in 1978, Xinjiang’s GDP has soared 294 times from RMB3.9 billion to 1.15 trillion in 2018; Its per-capita GDP has grown 153 times from RMB313 to RMB 48,000 in the same period. The per-capita disposable income of urban residents has risen 102 times from RMB319 to RMB32764, and that of rural residents has risen 100 times from RMB119 to RMB11975. There has been a growing trend to pursue modern scientific and technological knowledge and etiquette. The dissemination of religious extremism is resisted consciously. People of all ethnic groups have a stronger sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security. All these contribute to the degradation of soil breeding terrorism and religious extremism.
Xinjiang has started to enjoy the dividend of effective counterterrorism efforts with its economy steadily growing, people’s livelihood improving, and overall progress being made in all respects. Tourism boomed in 2018 when the region registered more than 150 million trips by domestic and international tourists, a year-on-year growth of 40 percent. Tourists from abroad reached 24 million, a 40 percent year-on-year increase. Many people who have visited Xinjiang extol the region’s progress: Today’s Xinjiang is not only beautiful but also safe and stable. No matter where they are or at what time of the day, people are no longer afraid of going out, shopping, dining and traveling.
Lithuanian friends are warmly welcome to Xinjiang. By visiting Xinjiang, you will have a chance to see the vastness and breath-taking scenery of Xinjiang, get to know the real situation in Xinjiang, and more importantly, share with Xinjiang people the desire for peace, the pursuit for development and the aspiration for a better life. I believe by then you will have a better understanding of and render more support to the Chinese government in its efforts to strike terrorism and extremism as well as to maintain stability in Xinjiang and safeguard its people.
The views expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Lithuania Tribune.