I. Urgent Needs for Education and Training
Terrorism and extremism have a long history in Xinjiang. From the early 20th century to the late 1940s, separatist and religious extremist forces, spreading "Pan-Turkism" and "Pan-Islamism", attempted to create a theocratic state they called "East Turkistan" in Xinjiang. In an attempt to split China, such forces advocated religious extremism and carried out a series of terrorist activities. For years religious extremism continued to make inroads into Xinjiang, resulting in incidents of terrorism.
Since the 1990s, the global spread and aggravation of terrorism and extremism has wrought havoc. Influenced by extremism, terrorist attacks and related incidents have caused heavy casualties and property damage in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and other countries and regions. World peace is under serious threat, and the future of humanity is overshadowed.
Between 1990 and the end of 2016, separatists, religious extremists and terrorists plotted and carried out several thousand acts of terrorism such as bombings, assassinations, poisoning, arson, assaults, and riots in Xinjiang. Many innocent people were killed and several hundred police officers died in the line of duty. The property losses incurred were enormous.
Terrorism and extremism germinate in a complex domestic and international environment. They are rooted in political, economic and cultural factors, and are not specific to particular countries, regions, ethnic groups, religions or social systems. The fight against terrorism and extremism is a global challenge. Over the years, different countries and regions have adopted different measures of preventing and combating terrorism and extremism, based on their respective historical and cultural traditions, their level of social and economic development, and the level of education and employability of their citizens.
For some time, Xinjiang, especially Kashgar Prefecture, Hotan Prefecture, Aksu Prefecture and Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture in the south, where religious extremism has had a long and widespread presence, suffered badly from frequent acts of terrorism. Large numbers of people were involved and even more were affected. The scale of the problem posed a serious challenge to China's efforts in fighting terrorism and extremism.
Exploiting people's religious beliefs, extremist forces spread religious extremism through Xinjiang's large religious population, among people who have limited means of communication outside their own communities, limited employment opportunities in farming and animal husbandry, limited sources of information, and limited knowledge of modern science. Deliberately distorting religious doctrines and canons, religious extremists have bound extremism to religion, to religious believers, and to society as a whole, and incited people to overthrow secular governments and establish theocratic states. They deny the concepts and achievements of modern secular civilization, inciting followers to "engage in a holy war and die for their beliefs in order to enter heaven", and injuring and killing those they describe as "pagans" and "renegades". Normal religious activities in Xinjiang have been seriously disrupted, and upstanding religious individuals have been ostracized, persecuted, or killed. For many religious believers, the mental shackles imposed by religious extremism have become unbearable, disturbing their normal life and work. Social and economic development in the region has also suffered as a result.
To strengthen their psychological control over religious believers, extremist forces have incited people to boycott the standard spoken and written Chinese language and reject modern science. They act in accordance with fabricated "religious law" and "domestic discipline", and defy the Constitution and state laws. They spread word about a "next life where one's fate is predestined", and deceive religious believers into rejecting the kind of vocational skills training by which they can improve their economic conditions and their capacity for self-development. A large part of the population could not read and write in the standard spoken and written Chinese language, and they had no basic knowledge of the law.
Influenced and controlled by religious extremism, many people have engaged in – or have been instigated, coerced or enticed to engage in – terrorist and extremist activities, but they have not committed serious crimes or inflicted actual harm. It is hard for some people who have been convicted of terrorist or extremist crimes to abandon extremist views, as their minds have been poisoned to the extent of losing reason and the ability to think sensibly about their lives and the law. Without necessary intervention measures it will not be possible for them to cast off the shackles of religious extremism, get back to normal life, and improve their prospects for a better future.
Faced with this severe and complex problem, Xinjiang has upheld the principle of addressing both the symptoms and root causes in its fight against terrorism and extremism, by striking hard at serious terrorist crimes, which are limited in number, and by educating and rehabilitating people influenced by religious extremism and involved in minor violations of the law. In accordance with the law, it has established a group of vocational centers to offer systematic education and training in response to a set of urgent needs: to curb frequent terrorist incidents, to eradicate the breeding ground for religious extremism, to help trainees acquire a better education and vocational skills, find employment, and increase their incomes, and most of all, to safeguard social stability and long-term peace in Xinjiang.