BEIJING (Reuters) - The top official in China’s Xinjiang province has called for a crackdown on terrorists and religious extremists after a series of deadly attacks, provincial government said on Monday.
Zhang Chunxian, the Chinese Communist Party chief of Xinjiang, was the latest senior figure to vow no mercy for troublemakers in the far western province, where officials have blamed Islamic militants for recent outbursts of violence.
Two deadly attacks in late July left at least 14 dead and 42 injured in the city of Kashgar.
"In order to firmly curb the current spate of violent terrorist acts...(we must) exert the highest pressure on the crackdown against terrorists," Zhang said in a speech to party members on Friday, according to the regional government's website (www.xinjiang.gov.cn/).
At the start of August security forces blanketed central areas of Kashgar, days after violence that highlighted ethnic tensions in the Muslim Uighur area.
In those attacks, ethnic Uighur assailants -- a minority in Xinjiang -- stormed a restaurant, killed the owner and a waiter, then hacked four people to death on a nearby street.
Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang, a region that accounts for a sixth of the country’s land mass and holds deposits of oil and gas, have long resented the presence of Han Chinese and religious and political controls imposed by Beijing.
Zhang also called for a curb on “illegal religious activities” and to focus on maintaining stability, without elaborating.
Zhang’s comments echo recent remarks made by Meng Jianzhu, the country’s top police official, who said that China will show no leniency to those who perpetrate terrorist activities.
In July 2009, the regional capital, Urumqi, was rocked by violence between majority Han Chinese and Uighurs that killed nearly 200 people, many of them Han Chinese.
Reporting by Sabrina Mao and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ken Wills and Daniel Magnowski