At least 50 people died in an attack last month at a coal mine in the violence-prone Xinjiang region, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday, as a visiting senior leader warned that the security situation was “very serious”.
The central government says it faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists in energy-rich Xinjiang, on the border of central Asia, where hundreds have died in violence in recent years.
But exiles and rights groups say China has never presented convincing evidence of the existence of a cohesive militant group fighting the government and that much of the unrest can be traced back to frustration at controls over the culture and religion of the Uighur people who live in Xinjiang, a charge Beijing denies.
US-based Radio Free Asia said the number of people killed in the Sept. 18 attack at the Sogan colliery in Aksu had reached 50, with most casualties members of the Han Chinese majority and police blaming knife-wielding separatists.
The news came as the country marked 60 years since the establishment of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, complete with images on state television of happy ethnic minorities dressed in colorful outfits dancing in celebration.
Yu Zhengsheng, in charge of religious groups and ethnic minorities and No. 4 in the Communist Party, told officials at an event marking the 60th anniversary in the regional capital, Urumqi, not to rest on their laurels, Reuters reported.
“We must fully recognize that Xinjiang faces a very serious situation in maintaining long-term social stability, and we must make a serious crackdown on violent terror activities a focal point of our struggle,” Yu said in a speech carried live on state television.
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