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

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.


Climate activists lashed to EU building as leaders gather

Updated 58 sec ago

Climate activists lashed to EU building as leaders gather

  • An Associated Press TV reporter said around 20 activists on the ground were detained
  • The EU leaders are set to debate ways for the 28-nation bloc to become carbon neutral by 2050
BRUSSELS: Greenpeace activists on Thursday scaled the European Union’s new headquarters, unfurling a huge banner warning of a “climate emergency” hours before the bloc’s leaders gather for a summit focused on plans to combat global warming.

Around 30 environmental activists clad in red and wearing climbing gear stood on ledges of the Europa building in Brussels as police gathered below and a helicopter circled overhead.

An Associated Press TV reporter said around 20 activists on the ground were detained. The group managed to climb the building by using the ladder of an old fire truck and has enough food to last for two days, according to Greenpeace spokesman Mark Breddy.

The EU leaders are set to debate ways for the 28-nation bloc to become carbon neutral by 2050. But poorer coal-dependent nations fear they could be hardest hit by the effort to transform their energy sources.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled Wednesday a new “European Green Deal” with an offer of some 100 billion euros ($130 billion) to help fossil-fuel reliant EU nations that make the transition to lower emissions.

The EU leaders will also discuss their long-term budget plans, the euro single currency and Brexit in the light of British election results.