China premier urges more efforts in restive Uighur heartland

By Ben Blanchard for Reuters

China's violence-prone western region of Xinjiang needs to make more efforts at development in its ethnic Uighur heartland to ensure young people there have "something to do and money to earn", Premier Li Keqiang told its top officials.

The government says it faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists in energy-rich Xinjiang, which sits strategically on the borders of Central Asia and where hundreds have died in violence in recent years.

However, exiles and rights groups say China has never presented convincing evidence of the existence of a cohesive militant group fighting the government, and much of the unrest can be traced back to frustration at controls over the culture and religion of the Muslim Uighur people who live in Xinjiang.

Speaking to Xinjiang delegates to China's annual meeting of parliament, including the region's Communist Party chief and governor, Li said Xinjiang occupied an "especially important strategic position", the official Xinjiang Daily said on Friday.

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