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Thursday, March 12, 1998 Published at 20:47 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Chinese separatists receive campaign of 'patriotic eduction'

Communist leaders in China's north-western region of Xinjiang say they have dealt a serious blow to ethnic separatism. They acknowledged that ethnic unrest had unsettled the region during the past two years, but said a campaign of patriotic education had helped root out violent separatists.

The region has experienced sporadic unrest for the last two years, and anti-Chinese riots by members of the region's Muslim Uighur majority last year led to a round of executions. These were followed by a series of bomb attacks in the region's capital.

Massive rectification campaign

Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary, Wang Lequan, said in a news conference in Beijing that a 'massive rectification campaign' had been carried out in response to these incidents.

He said the programme of patriotic education had shown there were people in remote areas of the mainly desert region who had, what he described as, an 'incorrect knowledge of the truth'. But Mr Wang said only a small number were what he called "bad guys".

Xinjiang Regional Chairman Abdul'ahat Abdurixit said such people had now been dealt a severe blow and illegal religious activities had been clamped down on.

In recent years there has been growing evidence of links between activists in Xinjiang and Islamic groups in neighbouring central Asia. Mr Wang acknowledged that such cross-border support continued but he avoided implicating the governments of the region which Beijing has been carefully cultivating in an attempt to minimise unrest.

'Oil wealth could help reduce tension'

He said he hoped that potential wealth from Xinjiang's large oil reserves would help reduce social tension in the region. But he conceded that the separatists would not necessarily be deterred.

Mr Wang also admitted that Rabiya Kadir, a Uighur businesswoman once hailed as an ethnic success story, had been stripped of her seat in the Chinese Parliament's advisory body. This was done because she had refused to criticise her husband, an academic now in the US, who China accuses of supporting Xinjiang independence.

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