Xinjiang city 'faces arduous fight'
Mayor of riot-hit Chinese city says struggle against "separatists" last many years.
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2010 09:36 GMT
China has stepped up security in Xinjiang following last year's deadly riots [Reuters]

The mayor of the Chinese city of Urumqi, scene of deadly ethnic clashes last year, has said authorities are preparing for an "arduous fight" against separatists which he said was likely to last for several years.

Presenting a report to the People's Congress in China's far western region of Xinjiang, Jerla Isamudinhe said the area faces a long struggle to maintain stability.

"Urumqi faces an arduous fight against separatism now and for years to come, after last year's riots,"' the official Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying on Friday.

"We should be vigilant and high-handed in our fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism," he said.

"We should stop all sabotage activities and attempts beforehand."

His comments come as Chinese authorities continue to crack down on suspected separatists in Xinjiang, keeping a tight grip on communications and other rigid security measures.

Ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang have long complained of repression from Beijing [EPA]
A top regional official said on Thursday that the monitoring of migrants, former convicts and "suspicious people" will also be stepped up.

Urumqi was the scene of the worst ethnic violence in China in decades, which pitted mainly Muslim Uighurs against China's Han ethnic majority, leaving nearly 200 dead and over 1,600 injured.

During the initial eruption of violence last year, Uighurs attacked Han Chinese, but in subsequent days groups of Han roamed the streets seeking revenge.

Uighurs say the violence was sparked when police cracked down on peaceful demonstrations in Urumqi that were held to protest the deaths of two Uighur migrant workers at a factory in southern China.

Energy-rich Xinjiang is strategically located at the crossroads of Central Asia, and Beijing has shown it is determined to keep a tight grip on the region.

'Vigilance' urged

China has blamed overseas exile groups for instigating the protests.

So far, courts in Urumqi have sentenced about two dozen people to death for involvement in the riots, including nine who have already been executed.

In his report Isamudinhe added that the government would improve its emergency response capacity in the region by building up additional security at district and county levels.

Earlier this week, the government announced a plan to recruit an additional 5,000 special police officers in Xinjiang "to help prevent unrest.''

Recruits would be given a month of training and serve alongside special police sent from other parts of China.

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