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18-07-09, 13:58
No Separatism, Terror Link to Xinjiang Unrest

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"This is a technique that has been used by Beijing for a long time," Kellner said.
BEIJING — Experts cast serious doubts on claims by Chinese authorities that separatists and extremists were fueling the flames of unrest and tension in Muslim-majority Xinjiang, urging Beijing to acknowledge minority problems.

"This is a technique that has been used by Beijing for a long time, and that consists in blaming everything that happens in Xinjiang on Uighur exiles," Thierry Kellner, researcher at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary Studies, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Sunday, July 12.

Urumqi, the capital of the desert region on China's western frontier, has been rocked by tension since thousands of Uighurs went to the streets last Sunday to protest repression and discrimination.

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At least 184 people have been killed since and thousands have been detained in a massive crackdown by the authorities.

China is blaming the three forces of extremism, separatism and terrorism for the situation in Xinjiang.

It has singled out the World Uighur Congress, which it accuses of leading Uighur separatists.

"We don't know how this movement is organized, very few attacks can be attributed to it, and possibly none," Kellner said.

"It's quite a simple way to absolve one's own mistakes."

Jean-Philippe Beja, a China expert at the French Centre for Research on Contemporary China in Hong Kong, agreed.

"They have contacts, but do they have networks in place? I don't really believe that."

Residents of China's Urumqi city were banned from gathering in public places on Sunday for a traditional day of mourning.

"Assemblies, marches and demonstrations on public roads and at public places in the open air are not allowed without police permission," said a notice posted on streets.

Riot police also stepped up security in particularly sensitive parts of the city, threatening to disperse public gatherings and detain people who refused to move away.

Acknowledge Problems

Experts urged China to ensure a better future for Xinjiang by addressing the fundamental problems instead of looking for scapegoats.

"Beijing first needs to acknowledge there is a problem of ethnic tensions, rather than blaming it all on a small number of criminals supported from abroad," Wenran Jiang, a China expert from the University of Alberta, told AFP.

"Second, it needs specific efforts to find out why some policies designed for promoting minority benefits have not achieved their intended goals, and modify them accordingly."

Uighurs, a Turkish-speaking minority of more than eight million, accuse the government of settling millions of ethnic Han in their territory with the ultimate goal of obliterating its identity and culture.

They also cite a recent government plan that has brought the teaching of Mandarin Chinese in Xinjiang schools, replacing their local dialect.

Xinjiang, a sparsely populated region of deserts and mountains that makes up a sixth of China's territory, has large oil and gas reserves.

"We have faced decades of repression here in Xinjiang; sometimes things are bearable, at other times they are terrible," said Maimaiti Jiang, a shop owner.