China plans security spending hike in Xinjiang

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BEIJING (AP) — China plans to nearly double public security spending in the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang following ethnic rioting last year that left almost 200 people dead, a state-run newspaper reported Wednesday.

A budget proposal submitted to the Xinjiang People’s Congress includes an 88 percent rise in public security spending to 2.89 billion yuan ($423 million) from 1.54 billion yuan last year, the China Daily reported.

“The government decided to increase the spending on public security this year to enhance social stability in Xinjiang,” the paper quoted Wang Haichuan, director of the regional finance department, as saying.

Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri was cited as saying that authorities should improve emergency response procedures so they can react quickly to mass incidents such as riots.

The July riots in the regional capital of Urumqi were the worst ethnic violence in decades in China. Hundreds of people were rounded up in the wake of the riots, in which Uighurs attacked members of China’s Han ethnic majority, only to face retaliatory attacks two days later.

Uighurs are a Turkic Muslim ethnic group linguistically and culturally distinct from the Han and many resent Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, their traditional homeland.

China blamed the rioting on overseas-based groups agitating for broader rights for Uighurs in Xinjiang. The region was smothered in heavy security following the violence, and Internet access has only recently been partially restored.