NEWS COMMENTARY: China’s ambassador to Norway says he’s recently received many inquiries about the area that’s home to one of the terrorist suspects arrested in Oslo last month. He sent the following article to Views and News from Norway “to answer many questions raised by our Norwegian friends.”
Xinjiang is China’s largest province
By Tang Guoqiang,
Ambassador of China to Norway
It has been almost one year since I took the post as the Chinese Ambassador to Norway. I am following closely the Norwegian media’s coverage of China. I noticed that recently when the Norwegian TV and newspapers reported on China, the words “Xinjiang” and “Uyghur” were frequently used. I think that it might have something to do with the Uyghur terrorist suspect arrested by the Norwegian police not long ago. Actually, when I met Norwegian friends, they often asked me some questions regarding Xinjiang and expressed their views on the case and China. During my diplomatic career of several decades, I have visited Xinjiang several times. I see myself that Xinjiang is a beautiful land of harmony and peace.
Xinjiang, situated in the northwest of the country, is China’s largest province. It covers an area of 1.6 million square kilometers, which is four times that of Norway. It used to be the passage between Europe and Asia for land transportation and cultural exchanges. The famous Silk Road went through there.
Today, the population in Xinjiang has reached 22 million and there are 55 ethnic groups living there. Among them, the largest group is Uyghur, which accounts for 45.7 percent of the total. Han is the second-largest group, and there are also Kazak, Hui, Kirgiz, Mongolian, Tajik, Manchu, Uzbek, Russian and Tatar ethnic groups.
‘Ethnic regional autonomy’
The policy of ethnic regional autonomy is implemented in Xinjiang. The Xinjiang Autonomous Region was established in 1955, and all the ethnic groups, with the Uyghur as the main group, are managing their internal affairs in the region. The Uyghurs account for 66 percent of all the delegates of the region’s people’s congresses, which are the top legislature bodies. The posts of the top executive and judicial officials are both taken by the citizens of the minority ethnic groups. It not only effectively guarantees the rights of the people in the region, but also enables more and more talents of the minority ethnic groups to go into politics.
For thousands of years, the people of different ethnic groups in Xinjiang have lived in harmony, helped each other and showed their talents. For example, Uyghurs and Huis are good at running business and catering, Hans specialize in planting vegetables, and Kazaks are competent in herding horses and sheep. The different living styles and the same aim of becoming well-off make them cooperate with each other and develop together. In the past 30 years, the per capita net income of the farmers in Xinjiang has grown by 28-fold and the per capita disposable income of the residents in towns has risen by 35-fold. The people’s living standard is improving steadily.
In Xinjiang, the different ethnic groups live in peace while the different religions co-exist in harmony and develop together. There are 24,000 mosques and millions of Muslim believers. You can feel the deep Islamic culture in the streets. Apart from that, there is also a large number of Buddhist temples and cathedrals, as well as monks and priests coming to worship. In such an environment, sometimes you could be confused about whether you are in the East or the West.
Xinjiang is abundant in resources and has a very beautiful landscape. The people are hospitable and good at singing and dancing. Local special products, such as Tianshan Snow Lotus, Yilin horses, Manaizi grapes and Hami sweet melons, are famous both in China and abroad. Tourists are deeply impressed by the unique yellow sand oasis, the sheep herd under the blue sky, the affectionate folk songs and the passionate dances. Last year, there were over 21 million domestic and foreign tourists visiting Xinjiang, some of them were Norwegian. The people from Xinjiang also work and live in other places of China to a pursue better life. You are able to find Xinjiang restaurants and taste the unique lamb kebab in many places, whether in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Harbin.
Like other provinces in China, Xinjiang also encounters plenty of problems and challenges in the process of its development, such as unbalanced development, a widening gap between the rich and the poor, increasing pressure on employment and environmental protection. As a western province, Xinjiang’s development also lags behind the regions in the coastal areas of the east. To cope with it, China’s central government has recently decided to expand investment in the road, railway and other infrastructure in Xinjiang. During the next five years, the total investment will be over 2 trillion yuan (USD 296 billion). At the same time, a lot of effort will be made to improve people’s living standards. We have every reason to believe that there is a promising future for Xinjiang.
I also noticed that the Norwegian media quoted the attacks from some overseas “East Turkistan” organizations on the policy of China’s central government, such as “plundering the resources in Xinjiang,” “suppressing the human rights of the minority ethnic groups in Xinjiang,” and their claims that “the contradictions between Uyghurs and Hans are intensifying.” “Uyghurs in Xinjiang should break up with the other ethnic groups in China and Xinjiang should gain independence from China.” In fact, these accusations and instigations have been used by some radical organizations to incite chaos in China. The “East Turkistan Islamic Movement,” which was included by the United Nations in the terrorist groups’ list, and some other organizations have masterminded a series of terror activities in China. There were over 200 such cases between 1990 and 2001. The “July 5 incident” last year deprived many kind people in Xinjiang of their beloved ones forever. The terrorist acts are strongly condemned by all ethnic groups in Xinjiang and they do not allow their quiet and peaceful life to be destroyed. Now the Uyghur suspect arrested by Norwegian police is said to be a member of the “East Turkistan Islamic Movement” and his target is said to be Chinese interests in Norway. It fully indicates that there is no boundary for terrorist activities and the terrorists are the common enemies of the whole world. That is why the international community must unite and counter terrorism together.
Uyghur is one of the 56 ethnic groups in the big family of the Chinese nation, and their prosperity, harmony and unification have always been China’s national goal. The fate of all ethnic groups is closely linked with the Chinese nation’s prosperity. As China develops and makes progress, the history and culture of all ethnic groups will surely be better protected and carried forward.