Xinjiang tackles poverty issue

By S. M. Hali

The Chinese province of Xinjiang has once again been targeted by extremists with a bomb attack on the Urumqi railway station on the eve of the May Day holiday just hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded a trip there. The blast took toll of three lives and left seventy nine injured. Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged “decisive actions” against violent terrorist attacks, after the blast at the railway station. Earlier, on March 1, 2014, militants attacked passengers at the railway station in Kunming city, capital of Yunnan with swords in which 29 innocent people were killed and 143 others wounded. On October 28, 2013 a car crashed in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, in a terrorist suicide attack, the first ever to hit Beijing. Two innocent people died in the incident: one Filipino and the other a Chinese citizen from Guandong province. These attacks have been presented as an ethnic strife, but the Chinese leadership has rightly diagnosed the cause of the problem. They have concluded that the relative lower state of prosperity amongst the ethnic minorities is being exploited by vested interests to serve their own agenda.
Uyghurs constitute 40 per cent of the 22.6 million local population, while Hans account for 40 per cent in the resource rich Xinjiang province. Before announcing a major uplift of the ethnic minorities, the Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a stern warning to the miscreants, stating that the battle to combat violence and terrorism will not allow even a moment of slackness, and decisive actions must be taken to resolutely suppress the terrorists’ rampant momentum. President Xi demanded profound awareness of the Xinjiang separatist forces and noted that the anti-separatism battle in Xinjiang is long-term, complicated and acute. In the same breath, the astute leader announced that the social stability should be properly ensured, adding that measures should be taken to safeguard the security of people of all ethnic groups and the order of their normal life and work.

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In 2014, regional government subsidies for poor families in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have been increased by 6.6 percent to reach 4.16 billion Yuan (676 million U.S. dollars). As a key program to improve people’s living standards, the regional government earmarked 2.3 billion Yuan and 1.8 billion Yuan as living subsidies for urban and rural poor families respectively. Xinjiang has 860,000 urban citizens and 1.3 million rural residents who enjoy living subsidies. The monthly per-capita subsidy is 277 Yuan for urban families and 129 Yuan for rural households. In 2013, the regional government allocated 3.9 billion Yuan as the minimum living allowances for the poor. The monthly per-capita subsidy is about USD 46 for urban families and USD 22 for rural households

With a land area of 1.66 million sq km, Xinjiang has a population of 22.6 million.

The assailants in all these attacks are stated to be associated with East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which demands the independence of the province and seperation of Xinjiang from China. ETIM was founded in 1993 by two natives of Hotian, but it fizzled out within a few months. Hasan Mahsum and Abudukadir Yapuquan reorganized the movement in 1997, and gave it fresh impetus. In 1998 Mahsum moved ETIM’s headquarters to Kabul, after receiving the promise of protection by the Taliban, who held sway in Afghanistan at that time. Here ETIM leaders were exposed to the working of Al-Qaeda and also met with Osama bin Laden and his ilk like the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to coordinate their actions. At this juncture, ETIM dropped the “East” from its name to broadened its domain. The group’s infrastructure was crippled after the United States led coalition forces invaded Afghanistan and bombed Al-Qaeda bases in the mountainous regions along the border with Pakistan, during which the leader of ETIM, Hasan Mahsum, was killed.

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Reportedly, ETIM resurged after the US led invasion of Iraq incensed the Al-Qaeda and its allies. According to some sources, ETIM expanded its portfolio to attacks on US interests, such as the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan). The US Department of State retaliated by listing it as a terrorist organization, which came as a major blow for ETIM as it lost sympathy from many Western organizations who would otherwise support its struggle against China under alleged human rights abuse issues. Nonetheless, ETIM circulated a video in 2006 calling for a renewed jihad, and took advantage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to gain publicity for its attacks. The ETIM is said to be allied with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and receive funding from well to do supporters in the west.

It is heartening that the Uyghur youth reject the activities of the ETIM and have come out in full support of the Chinese Government and its development projects in Xinjiang to tackle deprivation.