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China promises more development in restive Xinjiang, Tibet

March 7, 2010

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
March 5, 2010

BEIJING, March 5 (AFP) -- China's Premier Wen
Jiabao vowed on Friday to promote growth and
development in the restive regions of Xinjiang
and Tibet, where violent protests against
communist rule have triggered a huge clampdown.

"We will focus on formulating and implementing
policies for economic and social development in
Xinjiang, Tibet and Tibetan ethnic areas," Wen
said in his "state of the nation" speech to open
the annual session of parliament.

Wen also pledged to strengthen the capabilities
of the People's Armed Police, a large
paramilitary force tasked with squelching
domestic unrest, an issue in minority regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang.

Ethnic tensions in the two western regions have
triggered violent protests in the past two years,
sparking a tough security crackdown mixed with
softer government pledges to improve people's lives.

In March 2008, riots against alleged government
repression erupted in Tibet's capital Lhasa.
China says 21 people were killed by "rioters" and
that security forces killed one "insurgent".

But the Tibetan government-in-exile, headed by
the exiled Dalai Lama, claimed that more than 200
people were killed and some 1,000 hurt in the unrest and subsequent crackdown.

Then in July 2009, Urumqi, capital of the
Xinjiang region -- which is home to more than
eight million mainly Muslim Uighurs who have long
chafed under Chinese rule -- was the scene of deadly ethnic riots.

The government has said nearly 200 people were
killed and 1,600 injured in the violence, which
pitted Uighurs against members of China's dominant Han majority.

China has already invested enormous amounts of
money in developing ethnic minority areas to raise living standards.

Xinjiang's economy, for example, quadrupled to
400 billion yuan (60 billion dollars) in 2008 as
compared with 1997, the state-run Xinhua news reported last year.

But Tibet and Xinjiang exiles have criticised
this as harmful to their culture, and say that
the majority Han often get a disproportionate slice of the economic pie.

The government has a policy of transferring
members of the Han population to Xinjiang and
Tibet to consolidate Beijing's authority -- a
move that has exacerbated resentment among the locals.

The riot in Tibet's regional capital of Lhasa on
March 14, 2008 resulted in the deaths of at least
18 civilians and one policeman. It also left 382
civilians and 241 police officers injured,
businesses looted and residences, shops and vehicles torched.

The riot in Xinjiang's regional capital of Urumqi
on July 5, 2009 left 197 people dead and more than 1,700 injured.
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