BEIJING, March 19 China plans to more than
double the number of people working in the textile industry in
the far western region of Xinjiang to help maintain social
stability by drawing people away from extremism, a state
newspaper reported 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
The government strongly denies such accusations but it has
begun to recognise the economic roots of some of the upheaval,
especially underdevelopment and a lack of jobs in heavily Uighur
areas like rural southern Xinjiang, and it has poured money in
to rectify the problem.
In the last plan, the government wants to increase to one
million people the number of people working in Xinjiang's
textile industry by 2020, up from the current 200,000, the
official China Daily said.
"Textiles is a labour-intensive with a long production
chain. The best option is to create a large number of jobs in
southern Xinjiang," Liang Yong, deputy head of a Xinjiang
economic development body, told the newspaper.
More than half of China's cotton is grown in Xinjiang, much
of it by a commercial arm of the country's military.
The government says young people with little education and
few job prospects can be drawn to militancy.
"High school graduates who are under 28 and unemployed are
much more easily manipulated by religious extremism," the paper
quoted Guilistan Azez, the deputy headmaster of a school in the
old Silk Road city of Kashgar, as saying.
The southern Xinjiang city of Aksu will be one of the focus
hubs for textile production, the report added.
The government said last month it would pump 61.66 billion
yuan ($10.17 billion) in extra funds into Xinjiang this year to
improve housing and employment.
State media has reported 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.
This month, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train
station in the southwestern city of Kunming, in an attack blamed
by the government on Xinjiang militants.
In the latest incident, near Xinjiang's capital Urumqi,
police shot dead a man who attacked and killed a policeman, the
Ministry of Public Security said on Wednesday. The attacker was
Uighur, judging by his name. Police provided no motive.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)