Some facts and information about the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

(Provided by the Press Section of the Chinese Embassy in London)

July 7, 2009

I. The Urumqi rioting of July 5th

On 5 July, violent rioting took place in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. A large number of innocent people were killed and injured, among them police officers.

At about 6:20pm on 5 July, over 200 people gathered at the People’s Square in Urumqi. They were later persuaded to leave by the police. At about 7:40pm, 300 people blocked roads at Renmin Road and South Gate. They were asked to leave by the police. At about 8:18pm, some people started beating, smashing and looting. They pushed over guard rails and smashed three buses before they were dispersed by the police.

At round 8:30pm, rioters set ablaze a police car at Longquan Street, Jiefang South Road. They also chased and beat passers-by. Seven to eight hundred people moved to Big West Gate and Small West Gate along the square. They continued their rampage along the way. The situation was gravely escalated. Rioters divided themselves into different groups and took different routes, wreaking havoc in streets, alleys and the area connecting the city and the countryside. They tried to kill any Han person within sight, and smashed or set fire to shops and vehicles.

The violent crimes inflicted heavy losses of life and property. At 220 sites, the rioters set fire to buildings, smashed or burned vehicles, and killed people. The cruelty of their deeds was abhorrent. According to initial figures, more than 1000 people were injured and 156 killed, including 57 who were beaten to death right on roads or alleys. The ethnicity of those killed are being identified by medical experts.

About 260 vehicles were destroyed, including 190 buses, about 10 taxis and around 50 other vehicles. Approximately 203 shops were burned down or smashed, 14 private residences ruined and buildings of various types with a total floor space of 56850 square meters set on fire by the rioters.

To protect people’s life and property and safeguard law and order in Urumqi, the government of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region speedily deployed police to those places where the situation was grave. The police acted in accordance with the law. They sent in small teams to rescue people across the downtown area and search for criminals. By now, the public security authority has detained over 1,400 suspects in accordance with the law. Due legal process will be applied in the handling of these cases.

60 foreign media are in Xinjiang and a press centre was set up in Urumqi to facilitate media reporting. Press conferences were held by the local government.

There is deep concern that extremists outside China were involved in instigating and orchestrating these violent crimes. On 26 June, a brawl broke out between workers from Xinjiang and local workers in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province. It was an isolated case of public order and was properly handled. 13 people were detained. The incident was hijacked by the extremists to stir up violence.

For the 21 million people in Xinjiang, both ethnic Hans and Uyghurs and other minority ethnic groups, nothing is more important than stability and ethnic unity. They cherish their harmonious and stable social and political situation, which they would not allow anyone to sabotage.

II. Some facts and figures about the Xinjiang Autonomous Region

Xinjiang Uyghur Autnomous Region is situated in northwestern China and covers roughly one sixth of the Chinese territory. It has a population of 21 million, which is made up of 47 ethnic groups out of a total of 56 ethnic groups in the whole country. Among the people living there, the Uyghurs are the largest ethnic group, taking up 45.7% of the population, the Hans less than 40% and Khazaks 7%.

Xinjiang’s nominal GDP was 220 billion RMB (28 billion USD) in 2004, and almost doubled to 420 billion RMB (60 billion USD) in 2008, due to the China Western Development policy introduced by the national government to boost economic development in Western China. Its per capita GDP for 2008 was 19,893 RMB (2,864 USD), close to the national average of 3100 USD.

Great changes have taken place in Xinjiang in the past decades. Xinjiang’s economy has grown at an average annual rate of 10.3% in the past 30 years, higher than the national average. In 2008, Xinjiang’s economy grew by 11% despite the financial crisis.

The national government has given great support to Xinjiang. According to estimates, out of every 100 yuan of fiscal expenditure in Xinjiang, 60 yuan would come from the central government. Nearly half of Xinjiang’s capital investment in the past 20 years was funded by the central government.

Back in 1949, there were only 1 institution of higher learning and 11 secondary schools, and illiteracy rate reached 90%. 50 years later in 2005, there were 8,600 schools in Xinjiang with a total enrollment of 4.4 million, 60% of whom were from minority ethnic groups. The illiteracy rate has dropped to less than 2%.

In the mid-1950s, there were only several run-down highways in Xinjiang, now the autonomous region has nearly 3,000 kilometre of railway and 12 airports.

In the mid-1950s, there were only 40,000 officials of minority ethnic groups in Xinjiang. 50 years later in 2005, the number of minority ethnic officials exceeded 340,000, or more than half of the total. Ethnic minority women took up 66% of the total of women officials in the autonomous region.

The Spoken and Written Languages Ordinance of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region provides that all languages used by various ethnic groups are equal. Both mandarin and minority ethnic languages are taught at primary and secondary schools. Minority ethnic people have the right to file lawsuits in their ethnic languages and litigants are entitled to translation services in the trial of their cases. Government officials at all levels are required to handle letters and talk to visitors in the languages they normally use.

People of different ethnic backgrounds enjoy religious freedom under the law. There are 24,000 mosques in Xinjiang and 29,000 religious clergy. The minorities of Xinjiang have been exempted from the one-child policy and many Uyghur people moved out of Xinjiang to other parts of China, and consequently the percentage of Uyghur people in the total population of China has increased steadily.

III. Ethnic regional autonomy in Xinjiang

Organs of self-government in ethnic autonomous areas enjoy extensive self-governance rights beyond those held by other administrations at the same level. These include: enacting regulations on the exercise of autonomy and separate regulations corresponding to the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the ethnic group(s) in the areas concerned; having the freedom to manage and use all revenues accruing to the ethnic autonomous areas; independently arranging and managing local economic development, education, science, culture, public health, protecting the cultural heritage of the ethnic groups, and developing and invigorating their cultures.

Regional ethnic autonomy, equality, unity, mutual help and common prosperity are the basic principles the Chinese government follows in handling the relations between ethnic groups. Where ethnic minorities live in compact communities, autonomous organs of self-government are established under the unified leadership of the state. The minority people exercise autonomous rights and administer their own affairs.

Besides, the government makes great efforts to train ethnic minority officials and professional technicians in institutions of higher learning and cadre schools for ethnic minorities. The Central Government also actively aids the ethnic autonomous areas with funds and materials so as to promote the development of the local economies and cultures. The Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy adopted in 1984 at the Second Session of the Sixth NPC is the basic law specifically guaranteeing that the constitutionally decreed regional ethnic autonomy system is carried out.

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