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Torch ends Xinjiang journey
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13:19, June 20, 2008

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The Olympic flame yesterday completed its three-day tour of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

In the morning, Shihezi hosted the torch for a one-hour relay covering 8 km and involving 104 runners.

It started at Century Square in front of the municipal government building and ended at Leisure Square, which features an 8.5-m-high statue of General Wang Zhen.

Wang led his PLA regiment into Xinjiang in November 1949, two months after its liberation.

Five years later, the then chairman Mao Zedong ordered the more than 100,000 soldiers and officers or the regiment to become farmers.

They became known as the Xinjiang Production Corps.

Shihezi is a man-made oasis at the southern edge of the Gurbantunggut Desert, which covers 48,800 sq km and is the second largest desert in China.

The city spans 7,762 sq km and has a population of 640,000 people, almost all of them farmers.

Liu Lijuan, a student at Shihezi University who watched the relay yesterday, said: "Life here is simple.

There are plenty of people but it is still an isolated community and there is not too much to do for fun.

"It's great that the Olympic flame is here, and brought so much excitement."

Liu's grandparents were among the army officers ordered to become farmers. Her parents work at a food-processing factory.

Yesterday afternoon, the relay moved on to Changji, seat of the Changji autonomous prefecture.

The event lasted an hour, covered 4.4 km and also included 104 torchbearers.

Dancer Ma Kexiang, of the Hui ethnic group, ran the final leg.

Source: China Daily

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