April 10, 2017 / 6:29 AM / 3 months ago

Fellow Uighurs should beware of 'two-faced' people in separatism fight, official says

3 Min Read

BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Uighur Communist Party official in China's far-western Xinjiang has urged Uighur cadres to reveal "two-faced people" and "clean them out", the latest in a string of senior figures to single out their own ethnic group in the restive region.

It had been unusual for Chinese government statements to specifically target an ethnic minority, but a recent series of statements has come as authorities step up security measures to combat what they see as a rising threat from Islamist extremism.

Rights groups say that party restrictions on the religion and culture of Muslim Uighurs create simmering resentment against the state and its policies that encouraged many ethnic majority Han Chinese people to move to the region.

In a commentary published by the official Xinjiang Daily on Monday, Yasin Sidik, a senior official from Kashgar city in Xinjiang, urged fellow ethnic Uighur cadres to "bravely stand at the forefront against separatism".

"We must ... remember to be grateful to the party," Yasin said. "To forget history is tantamount to betrayal."

"We must stand out and reveal 'two-faced' people, thoroughly seize bad elements out from the masses, clean them out," he said.

Sidik's was at least the fourth such warning from Uighur officials in the past two weeks. Another top Kashgar official warned last week that Uighur party cadres were not pulling their weight in the region's fight against extremism.

A historic Silk Road trading post, Kashgar is central to China's Belt and Road initiative, President Xi Jinping's signature foreign and economic policy that aims to bolster trade and infrastructure links between China, Central Asia, the Middle East and beyond.

However, the city and nearby towns in southern Xinjiang are also among the most unstable in the region, creating a threat to plans that the party is combating with paramilitary and police "anti-terror" rallies and a raft of new security measures.

Hundreds have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years, mostly in unrest between the Uighurs, who call the region home, and Han Chinese. The government has blamed much of the unrest on Islamist militants.

The party encourages ethnic minorities to become cadres, but Uighurs still number far fewer than Han officials in the region. All party employees are expected to be atheist, so those Uighurs who do become party officials are seen by fellow Uighurs as having abandoned their culture.

Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Paul Tait

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