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China calls for heightened security

Increased terrorist attacks anticipated

BEIJING -- China urged local security agencies yesterday to ''prepare for danger" and remain vigilant against terrorists in the predominantly Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang.

The call by Luo Gan, the top security official on the governing Politburo Standing Committee, came just ahead of the 50th anniversary tomorrow of the Communist control over Xinjiang, according to the state media.

Muslim Uighur militants in Xinjiang have fought for several decades to establish an independent nation known as East Turkestan.

China, which has aggressively resisted the movement, said this month that 160 people have been killed in Xinjiang since the mid-1980s in 260 attacks blamed on terrorists.

Communist Party celebrations in autonomous regions such as Xinjiang are often viewed abroad as little more than propaganda displays that include stiff officials and dancing minority groups in native dress. In the Chinese context, however, these carry far greater significance, human rights specialists said.

Beijing views these public displays not only as important demonstrations of its governing legitimacy but also as opportunities to signal important policy shifts in a system where decision-making is rarely transparent.

This partly explains Beijing's keen focus on security leading up to the anniversary. China is also celebrating this year the 50th anniversary of its takeover of Tibet, another so-called autonomous region, while the Inner Mongolia autonomous region will mark its 60th anniversary in 2007.

Despite their names, China's five so-called autonomous regions remain firmly under Beijing's control, part of a structure adopted from the Soviet Union. Approximately 60 percent of Xinjiang's 20 million people is Muslim, considered an ethnic minority in predominantly ethnic Han China.

According to the state-run China Daily yesterday, the overall security situation in Xinjiang is acceptable.

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