The Chinese president has called on military forces to erect a “Great Wall of Steel” around the restive western region of Xinjiang, which is home to the largely Muslim Uighur minority.
Xi Jinping made the comments on Saturday during a parliamentary session, urging authorities to work to bring “lasting peace and stability” to the border region, which has witnessed a rise in violence and terror attacks blamed on what Beijing calls local Uighur separatist groups, The Guardian reported.
The remarks by the Chinese leader came after a series of massive “anti-terror” military marches in Xinjiang.
Tens of thousands of heavily-armed Chinese forces have poured onto the streets in Xinjiang in recent weeks, vowing to wage a “people’s war on terror” against militants, according to the report.
At one recent show of force, the report adds, the regional Communist Party chief called on troops to “bury the corpses of terrorists in the vast sea of the people’s war.”
Beijing accuses what it describes as exiled Uighur separatist groups of planning attacks in the resource-rich region.
Many Uighurs complain of discrimination and marginalization by the Chinese authorities. Some foreign-based members of the community also claim Beijing is cracking down on the Turkic-speaking ethnic minority.
Xinjiang has for decades been devastated by outbreaks of vicious ethnic violence, a process experts believe has been exacerbated by the government’s ill treatment of Uighurs, which, according to the report, “includes draconian religious restrictions and social and economic discrimination.”
However, after a series of deadly incidents between 2009 and 2014 – including a flare-up of bloody inter-ethnic rioting and a number of Xinjiang-linked attacks on civilians – the region appeared to be enjoying a period of relative calm.
That apparent calm was shattered last December, when Chinese military forces gunned down four individuals who allegedly attempted to blow up a Communist party building in southern Xinjiang. Three more suspected militants were also shot last month after reportedly attacking civilians with machetes.
Repeated signs have emerged in Xinjiang in recent weeks amid a severe security crackdown, indicating that the restive area is now entering a period of even tighter control.
Last month, according to the report, it was reported that security authorities had ordered residents to install GPS tracking devices in their vehicles to allow officials to permanently monitor their movements.
Moreover, it was further reported this week that rigid new anti-extremism regulations were being prepared giving authorities special powers to deal with people regarded as “a terror threat.”