View Full Version : China rules out terrorism in Muslim region blasts

13-03-05, 17:58
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has ruled out terrorism as a cause of two explosions in the Muslim-majority northwestern region of Xinjiang and the top government official there said on Sunday ethnic tension had eased.

China has blamed separatists for a string of bombings and riots in Xinjiang since the 1980s, but Ismail Tiliwaldi said a bus explosion that killed 12 in January was due to a bomb planted by a disgruntled miner.

He said a second, small explosion that happened within days of the bus bombing was caused by a gas leak.

But he added China would never tolerate separatist activities in the region where some have proposed an independent state of East Turkestan.

"We absolutely cannot allow them (separatists). What kind of country would permit these kind of activities?" he said at a news conference on the sidelines of China's annual session of parliament.

Turkic-speaking Uighurs make up the majority of the 19 million people in Xinjiang, which borders former Soviet Central Asian republics, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

An anti-secession law aimed at preventing any moves towards independence by Taiwan -- the self-governing island China claims as its own -- has been the main legislation at this year's parliament session.

But Tiliwaldi said the law should also be a reminder that separatism would not be tolerated in any part of the country.

He added that U.S. support of China's efforts to curb independence activities in Xinjiang was clear by the fact that activists for an East Turkestan were among the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

China has supported the U.S.-led war on terror, but human rights activists accuse it of using the campaign to legitimise a crackdown on Uighur activists, detain Muslims and close mosques and religious schools.

As many as 2 million Han Chinese moved into Xinjiang in the 1990s in a government-supported migration aimed at developing the remote region, prompting accusations that Uighurs have been left behind, but Tiliwaldi said there was no ethnic tension in the region.

"It's a place for all nationalities," he said.

But the government is clearly still concerned about the potential for separatist sentiment, conducting military exercises in Xinjiang last August dubbed "Controlling East Turkestan".

China is especially keen to maintain stability in the region since it contains 30 percent of the country's oil reserves and is expected to become China's largest natural gas producer this year, pumping out 10 billion cubic metres -- double the rate in 2003.

Tiliwaldi said the province's economy grew 11.4 percent last year, compared with 9.5 percent growth for the whole country.