Chinese police have cracked down on illegal possession of explosives since July in the region where Muslims make up a narrow majority of the population, Wang Lexiang, Xinjiang’s deputy chief of public security, said on Wednesday.
He said this had helped China fight what he called the “three forces” of religious “extremism, separatism and terrorism” in the mainly Muslim region.
“We’ve forcefully dealt a blow to the ‘three forces’ and maintained stability in Xinjiang,” he also told Ta Kung Pao, a Beijing-funded Hong Kong newspaper.
The number of violations of rules governing explosives increased by 195 per cent last year, he said.
Armed Uighur separatists, who are Central Asian by blood and Muslim by religion, have been for decades attempted to make the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang an independent Islamic state called East Turkestan.
“The social situation is still grave,” said Wang, adding that more than 41 tons of explosives had been seized in the region since 1990.
Police had also confiscated 6,540 grenades and 4.15 metric tons of raw materials to make explosives during the period, he said.
Uighur Muslim separatists successfully bombed a barracks of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police and a railway line in 2004, Wang said without saying how many were killed or wounded.
Turkic-speaking Uighurs account for about eight million of the 19 million people in Xinjiang which borders the former Soviet Central Asian republics, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Judges from member-states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – will meet in Shanghai next month to plan speeding up extradition procedures in order to better fight armed Muslim groups in Central Asia.