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China: Security Beefed Up In Xinjiang Ahead Of China-Asia-Europe Expo

Consequent to the call given by Zhou Yongkang, Politburo Standing Committee member and Secretary, Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at a high level conference (Urumqi, 20 February 2011) to ‘improve social management and ensure long term peace and stability’ in Xinjiang,four important follow up events have been organised to discuss ways for guaranteeing regional economic progress and security.

The first notable event was holding of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Tadjikistan Joint Counter-Terrorism Exercise at Kashgar, Xinjiang, on 6 May 2011 under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, with the stated objective of “rehearsing command decisions, hostage rescue operations and cleaning-up tactics”. Terrorist cells operating in the Uighur dominated border areas were the notional target of the exercise. Next was the convening of the 28th Session of Xinjiang People’s Congress Standing Committee (Urumqi, 23-25 May 2011), which reviewed functioning of the legal and security systems in the region and decided to form a Social Management Work Committee for Xinjiang with the responsibility to supervise the party and government work in the region, particularly in implementation of national laws and protection of political and legal rights of citizens.

The third occasion was marked by holding of Xinjiang Public Law and Order Conference (Urumqi, 24 May 2011) which announced the launch of a new offensive in Xinjiang to strengthen social stability, especially in the run up to the scheduled China-Asia-Europe Expo at Urumqi in coming September. Jiao Hemin, Xinjiang Party Deputy secretary asked the cadres on the occasion to strengthen patrolling on roads, residential areas and important installations leading to increased public confidence in the region’s police apparatus. It was acknowledged in the conference that the standards in maintaining technical equipment and training of personnel have already been effective. Out of 5692 cases of law and order reported so far in the year, 3620 could be dealt with and the crime rate declined by 24.7%. On the other hand, there has been an increase in the drug trafficking cases and the authorities could seize 189 kgs of drugs and arrest 1209 criminals involved in 170 cases.

The Second National Work Conference on Xinjiang held at Beijing in end May 2011, marked the fourth event. Attended by top leaders like Zhou Yongkang and Li Keqiang, it deliberated on the economic and financial assistance to be given to Xinjiang by 19 Provinces and municipalities in the country under the “pairing assistance programme”.

It is not surprising that Beijing is giving top priority to stability in Xinjiang, which witnessed big ethnic unrest in July 2009 leaving about 200 people dead. At the same what is interesting is the increasing attention of the authorities in Xinjiang to drug trafficking, giving an impression that drug menace has become a problem in the region perhaps on par with terrorism threat. Is Xinjiang, now well connected to Europe and Hongkong, thanks to developmental projects, becoming a new drug trafficking route? The answer may possibly ‘Yes’. Beijing may also be getting concerned with the possibilities of Uighur terrorists using the drug money for buying weapons. While China still remains unable to deal effectively with the drug problem in the Yunnan-Myanmar border, it is coming under compulsions to face another front – drug syndicate operations in Xinjiang. It may not be wrong to say that anti-terrorism campaign in Xinjiang is assuming a new dimension.

(The writer,Mr Ashok Tiku,based in New Delhi, analyses developments in Xinjiang.Email:ashoktiku1@hotmail.com

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