January 23, 2018 / 12:54 AM / 3 months ago

China's Xinjiang to build 'Great Wall' to protect border: governor

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang will build a “Great Wall” around its borders to prevent the infiltration of militants from outside the country, state media reported on Tuesday citing the regional governor.

Hundreds of people have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years in violence between Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language, and ethnic majority Han Chinese, especially in the heavily Uighur southern part of Xinjiang.

China blames the violence in Xinjiang on Islamist extremists and separatists, some of whom it says have links to groups outside the country.

Rights groups and Uighur exiles say it is more a product of Uighur frustration at Chinese controls on their culture and religion. China denies any repression.

Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir said Xinjiang would step up border measures to create a “Great Wall”, the official China Daily reported.

“We will try our best to leave no gaps or blind spots in social security management and ensure the key areas remain absolutely safe,” he said at the opening of the regional assembly’s annual session.

Technology along the border would be improved and roads and other infrastructure increased, Shohrat Zakir said.

“The overall situation was stable in 2017, which made people feel safer,” he said. “We won’t allow separatism to stage a comeback and will ensure religious extremism never rises again from the ashes and terrorist attacks are doomed to failure.”

The “Great Wall” comments were similar to those President Xi Jinping made last year during the annual session of the country’s parliament, where he told Xinjiang lawmakers of the need to build a “great wall of iron” to safeguard stability.

Xinjiang has been relatively quiet over the past year or so after a spate of incidents, which has coincided with a massive increase in security, including collecting DNA and other biometric data from the whole population.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait

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