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Xinjiang officials pledge crackdown on violent crime, call for safeguarding ethnic unity

2009-07-25 09:11 BJT

Special Report: 7.5 Xinjiang Urumqi Riots |

URUMQI, July 24 (Xinhua) -- High-ranking officials in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region stressed Friday continued vigilance against violent criminal activities and called for safeguarding ethnic unity almost three weeks after the deadly riot in the regional capital Urumqi.

"We will stick to the policy of launching 'preemptive strikes' against enemies with an iron fist to curb violent criminality," said Nur Berkri, chairman of the regional government, at a meeting of the local legislature.

The July 5 riot in Urumqi has left 197 people dead, mostly innocent civilians, and more than 1,600 injured. By Thursday, 123 dead people had been cremated.

Currently, 539 people are still in hospital, including 13 in critical condition and 44 with severe injuries. Altogether, 331 shops and 627 vehicles were torched, and many public facilities were damaged.

Local police have arrested 1,434 suspects.

"The riot is neither an ethnic nor religious issue, let alone a human rights issue. It is a political struggle between us and hostile forces on safeguarding national unity, opposing ethnic division, maintaining socialist system, consolidating the Party's ruling status and protecting core national interests," Nur Berkri said.

He also pledged to find and arrest all other suspects "at an early date" who had escaped after committing crimes of vandalizing, looting and arson during the riot.

"They will receive punishment according to law," he said.

He said that safeguarding ethnic unity sabotaged by the riot is a fundamental task of the government as the riot has led to alienation among ethnic groups.

Governments at all levels must promote education on national unity and laws, especially among the young generation, farmers and herdsmen, floating population and religious groups, he said.

Nur Berkri said officials should better understand what the public needs, especially those in poverty. More attention should be paid to providing psychological assistance to the victims and encouraging them to rebuild their homes.

He made the remarks at the 12th meeting of the 11th Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Regional People's Congress which ended Friday.