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China promises to freeze the squeeze on Uyghur people

BEIJING (UCAN): Chinese authorities promised to  freeze the squeeze on the Muslim Uyghur population, who have been blamed for fuelling violence in Xinjiang province over the past two years.

They promised that repressive measures would end, even though the fight against terrorism and separatism in the remote region will be renewed.

Among the controversial changes will be the removal of convenience contact cards, which list individual and personal details about people. Groups other than the Uyghur are not required to carry them. They were introduced among a variety of security measures in May 2014 following a series of terrorist attacks.

Regional cadres in the Communist Party also announced plans to make it easier for Uyghur people to obtain passports, a major point of contention following complaints that excessive red tape prevents the minority group from making the hajj to Mecca.

The new measures were announced during meetings of the Xinjiang government during the last week of March in which regional Communist Party boss, Zhang Chunxian, launched the Year of Ethnic Unity.

“We must respect differences and take a respectful attitude toward dealing with problems of (different) customs, to create an atmosphere in society of respect for the culture and customs of different peoples,” Zhang was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinjiang Daily on March 31.

The announcements mark the latest sign Chinese leaders may be moving away from hardline measures in Xinjiang, after Zhang said earlier in March that the number of terrorist attacks had dropped in the region.

Appearing alongside the Xinjiang party boss at major political meetings in Beijing earlier this month, the prime minister, Li Keqiang, said Xinjiang is now generally stable, urging economic development in the region to create jobs for disaffected young people.

In late March, state broadcaster, CCTV, placed Urumqi at number seven among the top 10 happiest cities in China.

The city has not witnessed a major terrorist attack in nearly two years, but clear divisions persist between the majority Han Chinese and the Uyghur population.

Following National People’s Congress in Beijing during March, the government announced a new economic blueprint focussing on Xinjiang and Tibet as part of plans to develop a new Silk Road, as part of its drive toward stabilising the regions.

But campaign groups say efforts at economic development represent little more than window-dressing, as persecution of minority groups continues.

A Tibetan entrepreneur, Tashi Wangchuk, who advocates that schools should include teaching in the Tibetan language, was charged with inciting separatism earlier this month.

A Tibetan blogger, Shokjang, was detained in February and may have been sentenced to three years in prison amid conflicting reports.

It was hoped that the president of the United States of America (US), Barack Obama, would raise issues of human rights with the president of China, Xi Jinping, when the two leaders met on the sidelines of a nuclear security conference in Washington on March 31.


“We are calling upon the US government to raise the cases of Tashi Wangchuk and Shokjang, and to express its concern over China’s oppressive and counter-productive policies in Tibet,” Matteo Meccaci, the president of the International Campaign for Tibet, who is based in Washington, said.

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