Will 'ethnic cohesion' mend Xinjiang?

China's President Xi Jinping poses for pictures with primary school students in Shufu county, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region, in this picture taken 28 April 2014 by Xinhua News Agency and supplied to Reuters State media has portrayed Mr Xi as a benevolent leader meeting local people

The brazen attack on a railway station in Urumqi took place as Chinese leader Xi Jinping was wrapping up his first trip to Xinjiang as president.

The timing appears to be no coincidence: it will be seen as a defiant message to Mr Xi.

Beijing is struggling to contain the growing violence emanating from its far western region, home to the Uighur ethnic minority.

China blamed "Uighur separatists" for another deadly attack at a railway station in Kunming in March - thousands of kilometres from the region.

Mr Xi visited the region with Kunming very much on his mind.

Since the latest attack, Chinese state TV has been endlessly casting Mr Xi as a paternal leader meeting the locals during his four-day visit.

In some of the footage he is shown sporting a traditional cap worn by Uighur men.

Uighurs, who are predominantly Muslim, make up less than half of the region's population. They have long complained of cultural and religious repression under Chinese rule, an accusation Beijing denies.

In this 30 April 2014 photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) visits a mosque in Urumqi, Xinjiang The visit to Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia, is Mr Xi's first as president

Uighur exile groups and human rights organisations say China's social and economic policies are fuelling the unrest.

But Beijing says the violence is being sponsored by overseas groups and that only way to quell the unrest is through greater development and integration.

That was why Mr Xi was shown at a bilingual school stressing to Uighur children the importance of learning Mandarin, the country's official language, as well as their native tongue.

BBC China Blog

The BBC China blog is where our teams across the country will provide a flavour of their latest insights.

We'll focus on the new and newsworthy, but also use our journalists' expertise to shine fresh light on China's remarkable transformations and upheavals.

Most of the posts will be written or filmed by journalists in our main bureau, in Beijing, or in our other bases in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Please let us know what you think and send us your ideas. You can also use #BBCChinablog to keep up to date with our reports via Twitter.

He stated that it would improve their job prospects and also promote "ethnic cohesion".

China's leader has also pledged to use an iron fist to crush what he describes as terrorism.

"More sweat in ordinary times, so there will be less blood spilled in times of war," Mr Xi told police officers in Kashgar, a city in southwest Xinjiang. "There must be effective means to deal with violent terrorist elements."

Following the latest attack, the coverage has been heavily censored.

Pictures from the scene were deleted from Weibo - China's equivalent of Twitter - highlighting the sensitivity of the issue.

Instead, Chinese state TV continues to pump out pictures promoting ethnic harmony. But all the pictures cannot mask the reality that China's policies, for now anyway, are not working in Xinjiang.

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • MouseEscape the rat race

    Burnt out? Meet the workers who took more than a vacation - and changed their lives

Programmes

  • (File photo) A man dressed as Father Christmas with a sleigh and a reindeer Click Watch

    A website which tracks Father Christmas, plus other sites and apps to keep you entertained

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.