Wed, Aug 31, 2005 - Page 5 News List

China steps up efforts to fight terrorism

AFP , BEIJING

China was stepping up efforts to fight terrorism internationally, and especially to curb Muslim Uighurs seeking an independent state in the nation's western-most Xinjiang region, state press said yesterday.

"China faces a real terrorist threat and a long-term latent threat," Zhao Yongchen (趙永琛), vice public security minister for terrorism, was quoted by the Beijing News as telling an international law enforcement symposium.

"From the most recent 10 years, the terrorist threat that China is facing mostly comes from domestic and international `East Turkestan' terrorist forces and international terrorist organizations."

China had joined 10 of the 13 major international anti-terrorism treaties and was working to pass legislation that fell in line with international practices, Zhao added.

Muslim Uighur separatists, who maintain a distinct ethnic identity from the Chinese, have been fighting to re-establish an independent state of East Turkestan in Xinjiang since it became an autonomous region of China in 1955.

They accuse the ruling Chinese of political, religious and cultural repression in the name of counter-terrorism efforts that were significantly stepped up after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

China maintains that East Turkestan separatists have links with groups like al-Qaeda.

Last week China's top official in Xinjiang, Wang Lequan (王樂泉), said he was stepping up a crackdown on pro-independence and separatist activities in Xinjiang ahead of the 50th anniversary of its takeover on October 1.

Wang also confirmed the arrests of a handful of activists who he said have carried out terrorist, separatist or extremist activities endangering national unity and social stability.

"They want to sabotage our 50th anniversary celebrations but we can't passively wait for these things to happen, so we have actively strengthened pre-emptive measures," said Wang, Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang.

The German-based World Uighur Congress alleged that authorities have been carrying out mass arrests of pro-independence Uighurs ahead of the October annexation anniversary.

Wang denied mass arrests but said authorities always come down hard on individuals engaged in extremist activities.

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