BEIJING Feb 12 The Chinese government will pump
61.66 billion yuan ($10.17 billion) in extra funds into the
restive far western region of Xinjiang this year to improve
housing and employment, state media said on Wednesday.
Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people and strategically
located on the borders of central Asia, has been beset by
violence for years, blamed by the government on Islamist
militants and separatists who want to establish an independent
state called East Turkestan.
Exiles and many rights groups though say the real cause of
the unrest is China's heavy-handed policies including
restrictions on Islam and the Uighur people's culture and
language, charges the government strongly denies.
But the government has begun to recognise the economic roots
of some of the upheaval, especially underdevelopment and lack of
job opportunities in heavily Uighur areas like rural southern
Xinjiang, and has poured money in to rectify the problem.
State news agency Xinhua said the new funds would be used to
build 259,600 houses, generate 450,000 jobs, and improve
healthcare for rural and city residents.
A total of 42 projects related to water, electricity, health
and the Internet would be carried out in the region's
countryside, Xinhua added, without giving details of which
particular parts of Xinjiang would get the money.
The funding is part of Xinjiang's fourth
"Livelihood-building Year," an initiative started by the
regional government in 2010, Xinhua said.
"More than 484 billion yuan has been mobilised in the past
four years thanks to the high-profile initiative, which has been
credited with helping transform the livelihood of the local
population," it reported.
China has stepped up security in Xinjiang after a vehicle
ploughed into tourists on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square
in October, killing the three people in the car and two
bystanders, unnerving the ruling Communist Party.
State media reported last month that President Xi Jinping
was shifting the region's focus to maintaining stability over
development, after a series of attacks last year fuelled by what
the government said was religious extremism.
More than 100 people, including several policemen, have been
killed in violence in Xinjiang since last April, according to
state media reports.
($1 = 6.0606 yuan)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)