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China launches 'suppression' campaign in Xinjiang

China has stepped up security following the September 11 attacks in the U.S.  

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Authorities in China's restive Xinjiang autonomous region have launched a new so-called "Strike Hard, Severe Suppression" campaign against Uighur separatists.

In line with instructions from the leadership of President Jiang Zemin, the crackdown against what Beijing calls "East Turkestan" elements is being launched in the name of fighting global terrorism.

Speaking in a mass meeting in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Wednesday, Communist party secretary Wang Lequan said local law enforcement forces would "increase the strength of the 'strike hard' struggle -- and maintain the 'strike hard, severe suppression' movement -- against the forces of separatism and terrorism."

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Shanghai last week, Jiang and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed that Eastern Turkestan terrorists were a part of the global terrorist movement.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan also said last week that he believed East Turkestan "terrorists" active in both Xinjiang and Chechnya had been trained in "the secret training camps [Osama] bin Laden has set up in Afghanistan."

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Wang said that for the past five years, local army and police authorities in Urumqi had "resolutely and effectively" combated three linked groups: "core separatists, the leaders of the forces of religious extremism, and violent, terrorist criminal elements."

'Purify society'

The official China News Service on Thursday quoted Wang as saying that from 1997, Urumqi had deployed every year forces totaling 15,000 people to "hit at enemy forces, purify society and educate the masses."

It is understood the 15,000 personnel do not include soldiers from the Lanzhou military region of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) who are stationed permanently in Xinjiang.

After the September 11 attacks on the U.S., Xinjiang PLA authorities have also set up rapid-response crack units consisting of soldiers who can speak Uighur, Afghan, Tajik and other local languages.

Wang also said that a responsibility system had been set up whereby Uighur cadres would monitor activities in mosques in areas under their jurisdiction.

He added that the education and training of religious personnel, including those working in mosques, would be stepped up in order to "strike hard at forces of religious extremism and to suppress illegal religious activities."


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