Page last updated at 14:55 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 15:55 UK

Harmony plan for restive Urumqi

By Quentin Sommerville
BBC News, Beijing

Chinese paramilitary police patrol central Urumqi on 7/10/09
Tensions remain high on the streets of Urumqi

Some 7,000 Communist Party members are to be deployed in the western Chinese city of Urumqi, state media say.

The move is an attempt to reassure residents and ease ethnic tensions in the city, Xinhua news agency reports.

The officials will have face-to-face meetings with residents to explain government policies.

More than 200 people, mostly Han, were killed in rioting in Xinjiang in July. A recent spate of stabbings with hypodermic needles also raised tension.

Tens of thousands of Han Chinese protested in Urumqi last week over the stabbings.

The government says the attacks were part of a plot by separatist forces to inflame ethnic tensions between Han Chinese and the mainly Muslim, Uighur population.

"It is ethnic separatists who are creating an atmosphere of terror, undermining national unity, and are disturbing social order," regional party secretary Wang Lequan told a meeting on Sunday.

Close ally

Xinjiang is one of the most heavily controlled parts of China.

They will enhance people's sense of security, to help the public stay cool headed, so as to not be easily swayed by people with ulterior motives
Wang Lequan

Large numbers of Han Chinese have migrated there, and local Uighurs complain that they have become second class citizens, losing out on the best jobs.

Many Uighurs say discrimination and growing unemployment are to blame for the unrest.

But Beijing, which prides itself on firmly maintaining social stability across China, says the riots were instigated by outsiders.

Similar arguments were made after rioting in neighbouring Tibet in 2008. Then as now, China provided no concrete evidence that foreign forces were behind the unrest.

In a rare move, two of Urumqi's leading officials were sacked at the weekend.

Some protestors have also called on the long-serving Mr Wang to step down, but that seems unlikely.

He has been party secretary of the region since 1994 and serves on the country's ruling Politburo.

He is thought to be a close political ally of President Hu Jintao.

The 7,000-strong taskforce "will make it clear that the party and government are capable of punishing criminals", Xinhua said, attributing the remarks to Mr Wang.

"They will enhance people's sense of security, to help the public stay cool headed, so as to not be easily swayed by people with ulterior motives."

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