Comment: Xinjiang: a sweet and peaceful homeland for people of all ethnic groups

Updated July 05, 2019

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As the starting point for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and a hub of the “Belt and Road” Initiative, Xinjiang offers unprecedented opportunities for development. — Photo courtesy Mohammad Azhar Hafeez/File
As the starting point for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and a hub of the “Belt and Road” Initiative, Xinjiang offers unprecedented opportunities for development. — Photo courtesy Mohammad Azhar Hafeez/File

XINJIANG is the nearest place of China to Pakistan. When we say that “Sino-Pakistan friendship is higher than mountains”, it refers to the Karakoram mountains between Xinjiang and Pakistan. As the starting point for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and a hub of the “Belt and Road” Initiative, Xinjiang offers unprecedented opportunities for development.

From 1978 to 2018, Xinjiang has made great improvement in people’s living standards. The GDP of Xinjiang increased from 3.9 billion yuan to 1.15 trillion yuan ($1,686 billion) and the per capita GDP increased from 313 yuan to 48,000 yuan ($7000), an increase of 294 times and 153 times, respectively.

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Tourism has become an important engine for high-quality development. Last year, the number of domestic and international tourists in Xinjiang exceeded 150 million, an increase of more than 40 per cent.

The greatest charm of Xinjiang lies in the multi-ethnic harmony and diversity in cultures. There are 25,000 places for religious activities, including 24,400 mosques. On average, there is one mosque for every 530 Muslims.

Xinjiang has a population of 25 million and hosts all 56 ethnic groups in China such as Uighur, Han, Kazakh, Hui, Kyrgyz, Mongolian, Tajik, etc. The minority population accounts for 59.9 per cent of the total population. The people of all ethnic groups hold together like pomegranate seeds, cherishing national unity as much as their own lives.

The remarkable economic and social development that Xinjiang has achieved attributed to the policy of the Chinese government in firmly cracking down on terrorism and safeguarding social stability.

Since the 1990s, terrorists, extremists and separatists inside and outside China have planned and organised thousands of violent terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, resulting in a large number of casualties of innocent people of all ethnic groups.

Among these attacks are some notorious cases. On July 5, 2009, mobs attacked the city of Urumqi, causing 197 deaths and more than 1,700 injuries. At that time, Xinjiang was on the verge of being swallowed by terrorism.

By combining anti-terrorism experience of the international community with the ground situation, the Chinese government has taken a series of deradicalisation measures, including establishing vocational training centres. Lessons on official language of China, Chinese laws, vocational training and deradicalisation were offered for free so that trainees can master a skill and achieve self-reliance after the training.

During the training, customs and habits of different ethnic groups and different religions are respected. After the training is completed, trainees are recommended for jobs in local enterprises.

Deradicalisation in Xinjiang has been proven effective with remarkable outcomes. For nearly three years, no violent terrorist attacks have taken place in Xinjiang. The number of criminal and public security cases also decreased sharply, and the infiltration of extremism has been effectively curbed.

Today Xinjiang is not only as beautiful as it used to be, but also much safer. It becomes a beautiful home for people of all ethnic groups to live and work in peace.

Despite all the development in Xinjiang, in the past few months, there have been some noises by Western media. Some attacked the training centres as “prisons” or “concentration camps”, which “seriously violated human rights”.

Among those who making noise, there are those who have never been to Xinjiang, their allegation is based on rumour or imagination; some having hidden motives intentionally twist the truth to discredit China or provoke conflict between China and Muslim countries by linking the effort of Chinese government for maintaining social stability with “religion repression”.

For those who do not have a chance to know what is happening in Xinjiang, they are welcome to visit the province and see the truth with their own eyes. Recently, representatives from international organisations, including the UN, OIC, government officials and media groups from Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and some other countries visited Xinjiang and met the trainees face to face. They witnessed how local Muslims lived and worked in peace and fully enjoy freedom of religion.

They highly appreciated the ethnic and religious policies of China, and firmly supported China’s preventive anti-terrorism and deradicalisation efforts. For those who pretend to be asleep, we know that they can never be awakened. We believe that facts speak louder than words, while lies cannot hide the truth.

Pakistan has long been disturbed by terrorism. Under the joint efforts of the Pakistan government, the armed forces and the people, terrorism has been basically eliminated with tremendous sacrifices paid by society. Social security has been effectively maintained. China and Pakistan have cooperated in combating the “three forces” over the years, and jointly safeguarded the construction of the CPEC.

China supports Pakistan in its efforts in carrying out the National Action Plan on anti-terrorism. China is ready to jointly enhance counter-terrorism capacity, and beef up international cooperation with Pakistan. Working hand in hand, China and Pakistan will play a more positive role in safeguarding the security of the two brotherly countries, as well as peace and stability in the region.

The writer is China’s Ambassador to Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2019