Beijing faces ‘most prominent’ challenge in Xinjiang

Paramilitary policemen stand in formation as they take part in an anti-terrorism oath-taking rally, in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 10 March 2017
0

Beijing faces ‘most prominent’ challenge in Xinjiang

SHANGHAI: Separatists in western China pose the “most prominent” challenge to the country’s security, economy and social stability, the China Daily newspaper quoted a top security official on Friday as saying.
Beijing has long said it faces a determined campaign by a group known as the East Turkestan Independence Movement, or ETIM, in the far western region of Xinjiang, where hundreds of people have been killed in recent years in attacks and unrest between mostly ethnic Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese.
“(ETIM) is the most prominent challenge to China’s social stability, economic development and national security,” Cheng Guoping, state commissioner for counterterrorism and security, was quoted as saying.
The comments come about a week after a video purportedly by the Daesh group surfaced showing Uighurs training in Iraq, vowing to plant their flag in China and saying that blood will “flow in rivers.”
Underscoring the region’s importance in the eyes of China’s ruling Communist Party, President Xi Jinping attended a Xinjiang delegation meeting on Friday on the sidelines of the country’s annual parliamentary session, one of a select group of provincial and regional meetings Xi joins every year.
The official Xinhua news agency reported his attendance on its microblog, but did not give details.
China is worried that Uighurs have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for militant groups there, having traveled illegally via Southeast Asia and Turkey.
Rights groups say the unrest in Xinjiang is more a reaction to repressive government policies, and experts have questioned whether ETIM exists as a cohesive militant group. China denies there is any repression in Xinjiang.
Cheng said China should “closely check in on whether Afghanistan is becoming another paradise for extremist and terrorist groups. Such a major development may pose a serious challenge to the security of our northwestern border.”
Last month, the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst think-tank said in a report on its website that Chinese troops were on Afghan soil conducting joint patrols with their Afghan counterparts. China has dismissed such reports.
Security concerns have surfaced as China pursues its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to open up new land and sea routes for Chinese goods, and pours billions of dollars into investment projects around Asia, including central Asia, and beyond.
Cheng said maintaining security where there are related projects was “an important task and a demanding challenge.”
The Global Times, an influential state-run tabloid, said Xinjiang authorities would issue a new anti-extremism regulation this year, possibly later this month, that would “prevent the spread of extremist ideas.”
It said the regulation would supplement an existing counterterrorism law that is focused on acts of terrorism, but did not give details.
“Lawmakers need to distinguish between ethnic habits and extremist practices and understand that not all extremist ideas constitute a crime,” the paper cited Dong Xinguang, deputy director of the standing committee of Xinjiang’s regional legislature, as saying.


Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

Updated 50 min 10 sec ago
0

Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

  • “I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said

TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition secured a majority in Japan’s upper house of parliament in elections Sunday but will not reach the super-majority needed to propose constitutional revisions, according to vote counts by public television and other media.
NHK public television said shortly after midnight that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito had won 69 seats in the upper house, with nine seats remaining. If Abe gained support from members of another conservative party and independents, it would make only 76 seats, short of 85 he would have needed, NHK said.
Abe’s ruling bloc already has a two-thirds majority in the lower house, but without such control of the upper chamber, he has a slim chance of achieving his long-cherished goal of constitutional reform.
Nonetheless, Abe welcomed the results, saying winning a majority indicates a public mandate for his government.
“I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said in an interview with NHK.
Abe hopes to gain enough seats to boost his chances to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution — his long-cherished goal before his term ends in 2021.
But it’s a challenge because voters are more concerned about their jobs, economy and social security. Abe, who wants to bolster Japan’s defense capability, is now proposing adding the Self-Defense Force, or Japan’s military, to the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution. He said he is not considering running for another term.
Abe said resolving the decades-old issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and signing a peace treaty with Russia would be his diplomatic priorities during the rest of his term.
Opposition parties have focused on concerns over household finances, such as the impact from an upcoming 10% sales tax increase and strains on the public pension system amid Japan’s aging population.
Abe has led his Liberal Democratic Party to five consecutive parliamentary election victories since 2012.
He has prioritized revitalizing Japan’s economy and has steadily bolstered the country’s defenses in the backdrop of North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats and China’s growing military presence. He also has showcased his diplomatic skills by cultivating warm ties with President Donald Trump.
Abe needs approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses to propose a constitutional revision and seek a national referendum. His ruling bloc has a two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house.
The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and three other liberal-leaning parties teamed up in some districts. They stressed support for gender equality and LGBT issues — areas Abe’s ultra-conservative lawmakers are reluctant to back.
At a polling station in Tokyo’s Chuo district on Sunday, voters were divided over Abe’s 6 1/2-year rule.
A voter who identified himself only as a company worker in his 40s said he chose a candidate and a party that have demonstrated an ability to get things done, suggesting he voted for Abe’s ruling party and its candidate, as “there is no point in casting my vote for a party or a politician who has no such abilities.”
Another voter, Katsunori Takeuchi, a 57-year-old fish market worker, said it was time to change the dominance of Abe and his ultra-conservative policies.
“I think the ruling party has been dominating politics for far too long and it is causing damage,” he said.