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|Thursday, August 17, 2000, updated at 10:53(GMT+8)|
Foreign Correspondents Tour XinjiangA group of foreign correspondents are currently visiting Xinjiang to report on the development of the West. They will travel along the northern slope of the Tian Shan Mountains to Urumqi, Changji, Shihezi, Dushanzi, Kuytun, Bole and Yining. In Urumqi, the chairman of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Abulaiti Abudurexi answered questions from foreign correspondents representing eleven news organizations on August 15.
A reporter from AFP asked how developing the West would speed up Xinjiang's economic development. Abulaiti Abudurexi said that the economic development of southern Xinjiang lags behind the rest of Xinjiang. Nineteen out of Xinjiang's twenty-five impoverished counties are in the south. Thus, Xinjiang will focus on the economic development of southern Xinjiang, mainly by investing in its infrastructure. The state and Xinjiang government have already invested 300 million yuan to address the problems of food and water in the region. They have also invested 6 billion yuan to build a railroad in southern Xinjiang and renovate the airport.
A correspondent from Voice of America asked about stability in Xinjiang. Abulaiti Abudurexi said that a very small minority of ethnic separatists is responsible for the separatist activities in Xinjiang. It's not a question of religion or ethnicity; it's a question of separating from the country. Historically, there have been separatist activities in Xinjiang. There are separatist activities there today and will very likely still have them in the future. But, this does not affect the stability in the region. Historically speaking, this is the best time in terms of Xinjiang's economic development today, the improvement in the people's standard of living and stability in the region.
A journalist from AP asked whether a large number of ethnic Han people would immigrate to Xinjiang to develop it. Abulaiti Abudurexi said that the development of the West would not depend on mass immigration. Xinjiang has a population of more than 17 million, 62% of which are ethnic minorities. When China was first liberated, a large number of ethnic Hans moved to Xinjiang. But this time, the development of the West will not depend on mass immigration. The flow of labor will move naturally.
Another reporter asked about the plans to develop the West. Abulaiti Abudurexi said that the development of Xinjiang is a long-term mission and must be developed in stages. In the nineties, the main task was to create freer environment to develop, raise the quality of life, develop the infrastructure and lay down legal regulations for a market economy while protecting the environment. After developing the West, Xinjiang's economy will depend on its cotton, petroleum and natural gas production base and food, livestock, melon and sugar processing base.
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