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Xinjiang confronts its problems head-on

By Cui Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2015-03-14 08:17

Zhang Chunxian, Party chief of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, asked reporters if his answers to their questions were "quite something" during the open session with the Xinjiang delegation during the annual National People's Congress meeting on Tuesday.

They were indeed "quite something". He talked about how the region suffered from religious extremism that had penetrated from abroad, including from the Islamic State group. And he admitted it was a tough job to keep people away from the influence of belief systems that have driven many to carry out violent terrorist attacks in the region and elsewhere in China.

Almost all of the challenges the region is facing were put on the table during the session, including those that used to be treated as unmentionable and sensitive issues. "I cannot believe Zhang mentioned IS," a reporter next to me almost screamed after Zhang admitted the influence from the extremist group.

Xinjiang has entered a new era of facing its problems head-on with confidence, and it is ready to solve them in accordance with the law. During the past year, Zhang sent out a clear and strong signal to Xinjiang people that no matter which ethnic group they are from, they must obey the law above everything because they are Chinese.

Zhang said during the open session that Xinjiang has made extraordinary contributions to the overall stability of China and that what Xinjiang people have to endure is unimaginable. "They (the Xinjiang people) deserve respect from all Chinese people," he said.

Xinjiang people are indeed tough. They are already used to terrorist attacks, not because they want to be, but they have to be. They hate the terrorists most because their daily lives are affected. Some have even lost their loved ones in the attacks that have become more frequent in recent years.

Xinjiang confronts its problems head-on

Xinjiang people are also used to being misunderstood by others, which troubles them. "Just imagine what you would feel if you were being labeled as a terrorist just because your ID card says you are from Xinjiang," a friend of mine told me. "Such comments are even worse than terrorism."

As a reporter who has been stationed in Xinjiang for a while, many people have asked me what Xinjiang is like. I always tell them: "You will see the most beautiful scenery and diverse cultures in China there, so just pay a visit."

Well, it may sound like an advertisement from the tourism bureau, but it is what I really think. It only takes a four-hour flight from Beijing to the regional capital of Urumqi, so it's not that far away. Go and see Xinjiang, then replace the imagined one you have in your head with the real thing.

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