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Xinjiang Region: China's pain in the neck
Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) is a Muslim majority region which remained highly infested with anti-government violent and terrorist activities by the locals and despotic measures taken by the Chinese government since inception of the country.
Recently, Xinjiang again attracted international attention and was in the glare of international media too due to certain religious restrictions imposed on the Muslims of the region by the Chinese authorities between July-August 2014, which are otherwise acknowledged and performed by worldwide Muslim community as a part of its religious rituals.

In the first place, on the advent of month Ramadan, while quoting flimsy health reasons, Muslims civil servants, students, teachers and Party members in XAR were forbidden by the Chinese authorities from performing religious practices, including traditional sunup and sundown fasts during the holy month.

Nevertheless, this writ also remained enforced on civilians of the region. Eventually, such restrictions on Muslims of XAR were placed to avow that the State does not support any particular faith in the country.

Ensuingly, on August4, 2014 Chinese law enforcing agencies also put restrictions on the Muslims of Karamay area of XAR and banned wearing of 'Burqa', 'Hijab', any clothing bearing the crescent moon star, head scarves and long beards. Persons with any of these Islamic signs were also banned using public bus services and other public amenities.

Although authorities placed these bans for the peaceful completion of local sports competition up to August 20, 2014 but chances of extending such ban existed in view of wave of clashes between local Muslims and security forces. Violent conflicts between local Uighurs and the country's dominant Han migrant Chinese also occurred.

This resulted into killings of hundreds of people since last one year, especially in May 2013 when 31 persons were killed and over hundred were injured in terrorist attack in Urumqi. Earlier in April, 2013 in a clash between the Police and Uighurs 20 people were killed. Meanwhile Chinese authorities were also contemplating of enforcing State's family planning policy of allowing only two children, on ethnic groups to lower their birth rate.

History of Xinjiang can be traced to the third century. Since then it had been ruled by various dynasties and nomadic empires, till in the 18th century when the Chinese Qing Dynasty brought the whole area under its control. After the fall of Qing Dynasty in 1912, the area remained highly volatile due to separatists moments till 1949 when China could regain its control fully with the support of its Communist ally, the erstwhile Soviet Union.

XAR was established in the year 1955 as one of five Autonomous Regions of the China. It is the largest Chinese administrative region, covering area of over 1.6 million kilometer. Located in China's far west, XAR has boundaries with eight countries viz; Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

XAR has 5,500 km of international border with these countries. While the capital of the XAR is Urumqi, the region is administratively divided into fourteen prefectures (political divisions), ninety-nine counties and one thousand five townships.

Population of Xinjiang is over 22 million and around 58 per cent of them are Muslim. The various ethnic groups of Uighurs converted to Islam between 10th and 15th centuries due to connections with Muslims who used to use Silk route for trade purposes. Muslims of non-Chinese ethnicity who have adopted Chinese languages are known as Hui.

The regular migration of Han Chinese since Qing Dynasty era from the mainland to Xinjiang is real bone of contention in the region. In 1949, the total population of Xinjiang was about 4.33 million out of which 3.29 million Uighurs and 0.29 million were Han Chinese settlers, whereas in 2012 it was estimated that out of the total population of 21.8 million in Xinjing, 10.4 million were Uighur and 8.7 million were Han Chinese.

Thus due to the tremendous increase in Han Chinese settlers in Xinjiang, mostly governments employees, construction workers etc, the percentage of local Uighurs population has decreased from 76 per cent in 1949 to 44 per cent at present and Han Chinese settlers population increased from 8.7 per cent to 41 per cent, which indicated the huge demographical imbalance intentionally created by the Chinese government in a planned way to oppress and outnumber the Muslim population of XAR.

The migrants Hans also dominate their numbers in government's jobs, crucial Party and government positions as well as in the administration, police and military in XAR. Thus they have better and easier access to benefits derived from the economic progress in the region. Consequently, the majority Muslim of XAR is being systematically discriminated and exploited.

This led to discontentment and resentment amongst majority Muslims of XAR and since 1990 compelled them to indulge in disruptive, terrorist and violent activities more aggressively inside the XAR as well as inside the Mainland to attract the world attention against the PRC's deleterious and nocuous designs against Muslims of XAR.

Meanwhile, the rise of Talibans and their jihadi activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as training of separatists in Pakistani Madrassas were also blamed in 1990s for rise in Islamic fundamentalism and anti-State activities in XAR. China, however puts pressure on Pakistan periodically to crackdown Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan supporting hardliners Muslims in XAR.

Chian had even placed certain visa restrictions on Pakistanis visiting XAR. However, Pakistan government always claimed to extend it support to PRC in quelling terrorism in all forms and never allowing Islamic fundamentalist and jihadis to use Pakistani territory to support Islamic fundamentalists in XAR, against the China.

Significantly, the Chinese leadership took a serious note of increasing spate of terrorists attacks occurred at various places in Xinjiang during the last one year. Chinese President, Xi Jinping made his ever first visit to region of Xinjiang in late April 2014. On April 27, the day President Xi began his four day visit three senior Han Chinese Officers were murdered in Kargilik.

Xi, during his visit, went to military and armed police units and substantially remained focused on counter terrorism and security of the region. Since cracking down on terrorism is on main agenda for Xi's administration and is among the priorities of the Communist Party's newly created National Security Commission (NSC), Xi spoke of spreading nets from "earth to sky"to capture the terrorists and bring end to their anti-State violent activities. His visit also emphasised on promoting economic growth in the region.

China since its inception has successfully confronted with separatists and terrorists activities in XAR against the State. China is politically, administratively and militarily capable of managing the existing terrorists' related fundamentalism and separatism there.

Despite sporadic violent and terrorists attacks in and outside of the XAR by Uighur separatists, China could manage its control on such anti state terrorists activities with a iron fist. It would never allow such groups to flourish into worrisome terrorist organizations.

Separatists and Islamic extremists in XAR would also find it difficult to expand and strengthen their anti-State activities due to China's focus on all round economic progress of the region, especially in the field of oil and gas and communication.

Hence, more strong hold of Beijing's on Xinjiang would make separatists and terrorists more and weaker in days to come. China to achieve this, however, would also continued to be blamed for religious discrimination and resorting to oppressive measures on majority Muslim population of XAR.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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