June 5, 2014 / 6:47 AM / 5 years ago

China detains 29 in security operation in restive Xinjiang

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in China’s Xinjiang region have rounded up 29 suspects on charges such as inciting separatism, state media said on Thursday, part of a crackdown following deadly attacks blamed by Beijing on Islamists and other militants.

The suspects were detained in the regional capital Urumqi, site of a suicide bombing that killed 39 people last month, state news portal Xinjiang Net said.

“As of May 31, the city’s prosecutors have, according to law, quickly approved the arrest of 29 people suspected of crimes of inciting separatism, assembling to disturb social order, illegal business activities, and inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination,” it said.

The website, run by the ruling Communist Party’s committee in Urumqi, gave no further details.

Authorities have launched a year-long “anti-terrorism” operation nationwide and in Xinjiang, home to a large Muslim Uighur minority. Hundreds of suspects have already been detained.

Experts say economic marginalisation of Uighurs is one of the main causes of the violence.

They argue that benefits of development in Xinjiang, resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of ex-Soviet central Asia, largely have gone to majority Han Chinese, stoking resentment among Uighurs.

Rights groups complain that Uighurs - who speak a Turkic language - face hiring discrimination, with jobs going to an influx of migrant workers from other parts of China.

Uighurs have long chafed at restrictions on their language and culture, and curbs on religious worship and other freedoms.

Beijing says separatist groups in Xinjiang are seeking to form their own state called East Turkestan, though experts dispute the influence and reach of the most prominent group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

President Xi Jinping has pledged to alleviate poverty and improve ethnic relations in Xinjiang, an indication that China’s leaders recognise some of the causes of the violence.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Ron Popeski

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