Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Xinjiang to boost security funding by 88%

REUTERS , BEIJING

The government of the restive frontier region of Xinjiang plans to nearly double its public security spending and maintain communications controls following bloody riots in the ethnically divided capital in July.

The Xinjiang government plans to spend nearly 2.89 billion yuan (US$424.8 million) this year, up 88 percent from last year’s budgeted 1.54 billion yuan, the China Daily said, citing a report from the annual legislative meeting.

The Exile group Uyghur American Association (UAA) said that it feared the near doubling of the security budget “will broaden the scope of the ongoing official repression of Uyghurs and exacerbate ethnic tensions in the region.”

“In the complete absence of any government acknowledgment of the deep social and developmental inequalities that contributed to the unrest ... UAA is pessimistic about the possibility of any improvement in stability or social progress in the coming months,” it said.

The China Daily did not say what actual spending was last year, when 197 people died in rioting after Uighurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people native to the region, protested fatal Han Chinese attacks on Uighur workers in southern China. Han Chinese launched revenge attacks on Uighur neighborhoods two days later.

Urumqi went into lockdown again when mass panic over rumors of syringe attacks led tens of thousands of Han Chinese to demonstrate for the removal of the region’s party secretary, Wang Lequan (王樂泉). At least five people were beaten to death by the crowds.

Access to the Internet, with the exception of a few government sites, international phone calls and text messages, has been cut off since the July riots.

Communications controls will continue as part of an ongoing crackdown, the China Daily said, quoting Eligen Imibakhi, chairman of the legislature’s standing committee.

“After the July 5 riot, we recognized that the communication network, such as the Internet, has become an important tool for terrorists, separatists and extremists to instigate violence in the region,” Imibakhi said. “The government will crack down on such activities this year.”

Separately, a government source said that Xinjiang may create two special economic zones, one in the north where most Han Chinese live and one in the Uighur-dominated south, with tax and other incentives to attract investment to the region.

The government might also use oil and natural gas-rich Xinjiang as a pilot zone for reforms in China’s resource tax, the source said.

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