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SCIO briefing on Xinjiang's stability and development
2019/12/15
 

Speakers:

Shohrat Zakir, deputy secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), chairman of the Xinjiang regional government

Xu Hairong, member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee, secretary of the CPC Urumqi Municipal Committee

Erkin Tuniyaz, member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee, vice chairman of the Xinjiang regional government

Parhat Rozi, deputy secretary of the CPC Kashgar Prefectural Committee, head of Kashgar prefectural government

Chairperson:

Hu Kaihong, spokesperson of the State Council Information Office

Date:

Dec. 9, 2019


Hu Kaihong:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to this press conference. Today, we're delighted have with us Mr. Shohrat Zakir, deputy secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and chairman of the Xinjiang regional government; Mr. Xu Hairong, member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee and secretary of the CPC Urumqi Municipal Committee; Mr. Erkin Tuniyaz, member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee and vice chairman of the Xinjiang regional government; and Mr. Parhat Rozi, deputy secretary of the CPC Kashgar Prefectural Committee and head of Kashgar prefectural government. They will introduce various aspects related to the stability and development of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and answer some of your questions. 

Now, I'll give the floor to Mr. Shohrat Zakir.

Shohrat Zakir:

Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, friends from the media, good morning. It's a great pleasure for me to meet you here. You have given prolonged strong support to Xinjiang's development. On behalf of the regional government, I'd like to offer sincere gratitude to you all.

Xinjiang is a bright pearl in western China, a major East-West connecting point under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Central Committee of CPC attaches great importance to the work in Xinjiang, and has developed a series of favorable policies to support its economic and social development. Annual transfer payments from central finance to Xinjiang reach nearly 400 billion yuan. Meanwhile, 19 provinces and municipalities provide paired aid with an annual investment of more than 15 billion yuan. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee, the officials and people of all ethnic groups are united and work together to achieve common prosperity and development, and jointly contribute to Xinjiang's social stability, economic growth, ethnic solidarity, religious harmony, livelihood improvement and the peaceful and happy life.

However, the peace and stability in Xinjiang did not come about easily. Over a past period of time, it has faced challenges posed by frequent violent terrorist activities, severely damaging people's right to subsistence and development. We have upheld socialist rule of law, giving equal importance to cracking down violent terrorist crimes in accordance with the law and addressing problems at the source. Through improving people's wellbeing, enhancing legal publicity and education, and lawfully establishing vocational education and training centers, Xinjiang has been intensifying efforts to fight against terrorism and extremism. All these important aspects have laid a solid foundation for realizing Xinjiang's social stability and long-term security. There have been no violent terrorist cases and incidents for three consecutive years in Xinjiang. The spread of extremism has been effectively contained, public security has notably improved, and people of all ethnic groups are able to live and work in peace with a much stronger sense of gain, happiness and security.

We stay committed to the strategic goal of pursuing high-quality economic development, upholding an innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development philosophy, and seeking progress while maintaining stability. Thus, Xinjiang's economy has seen sustained and healthy growth. Since the 18th National Congress of CPC, Xinjiang's GDP has maintained an annual increase of 8.5%. Urban and rural residents' per capita disposable income is rising by 8.4% and 8.2% respectively per annum. In 2018, Xinjiang received 150 million tourists from home and abroad, up 40.1% year-on-year. In the first 10 months this year, the region has attracted more than 200 million tourists, up 42.6% from last year.

We have always taken the people's aspiration for a better life as the goal of our work, and resolutely delivered outcomes of development to improving the people's life, benefiting various localities and enhancing ethnic solidarity. Over 70% of general public budgetary expenditure is used in ensuring and improving people's livelihood, so as to deliver more achievements of development to all ethnic groups in a fairer manner. We insist that employment must come first, and have also prioritized education. We are committed to improving people's health, and have been working hard to improve the social security system. We adhere to the basic strategy of precise poverty alleviation, pooling all resources at our disposal to win the battle against poverty. Since 2014, a total of 2,385,300 people have been lifted out of poverty, and the poverty incidence rate has dropped to 6.51% this year from 22.48% in 2014.

We unswervingly implement the system of regional ethnic autonomy, observe the Law of People's Republic of China on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, protect people's rights of all ethnic groups participating as equals in administering State affairs as well as independently administering their local affairs within the autonomous administrative divisions where ethnic autonomy is exercised. In Xinjiang, chairpersons of the standing committee of the people's congress of the autonomous region, chairpersons of the autonomous regional government, and chairpersons of the regional committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference are all citizens from ethnic minorities; the heads of autonomous prefectures and counties are all citizens from the ethnic groups exercising regional autonomy. Most of the prefectures' (prefectural cities) administrative chiefs are all officials of ethnic minorities; in general, either the chief Party or government post at level of counties and equivalent areas is held by an ethnic minority official. Ethnic minorities account for 62.1% of the deputies of the 13th Xinjiang People's Congress, and 46.7% of the members of the 13th CCPCC of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. We protect and carry forward the fine traditional cultures of all ethnic groups according to law, and safeguard the rights of various ethnic groups to use and develop their own spoken and written languages according to law. Spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities are extensively used in such areas as the judicature, administration, education, press and publishing, radio, film and television, the Internet and in daily life. We are committed to upholding ethnic unity, making efforts to promote ethnic solidarity promotion activities. People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are as united as pomegranate seeds holding together tightly.

We fully act on the policy that "Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of religious belief", which is stipulated in the Constitution, ensuring that religious believers and non-believers have full equality in enjoying political, economic and cultural rights. We administer our religious affairs according to law and uphold the principle of independence and self-management of our religious affairs and guide religions to adapt to a Chinese context and to the socialist society. We make great efforts to improve the conditions of religious venues and activities. We intensify the support to and cultivation of religious figures as well as continuously serve the normal needs of religious believers.

Recently, the U.S. House of Representative passed the so-called "Uygur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019". This bill seriously violated international law and basic norms governing international relations, and grossly interferes in China's internal affairs. The measures adopted in Xinjiang in regard to counter-terrorism and de-radicalization are, by principle, no different from those adopted in many other countries around the world, including the U.S. The American side should discard its ideological prejudice, and stop adopting a double standard on counter-terrorism and de-radicalization; otherwise, they are putting themselves in a position opposed to 1.4 billion Chinese people, to the international community, as well as to the justice and conscience of humanity. No force can stop Xinjiang's progress of stable and prosperous development, as well as its people of all ethnic groups from working together and forging ahead. 

That's all for my brief introduction. Thank you.

Hu Kaihong:

Thanks to Mr. Shohrat Zakir for his introduction. Now, the floor is open for questions. Please identify your media outlet before raising your questions. 

CCTV:

Mr. Shohrat Zakir just mentioned that Xinjiang has seen no violent terrorist attack for three consecutive years. So, my question is what kind of economic benefits have been brought about by this stable situation?

Shohrat Zakir:

Thanks for your question. I would like to invite Erkin Tuniyaz, vice chairman of the Xinjiang regional government, to answer it.

Erkin Tuniyaz: 

Thanks for your question. It is clear that any country in the world seeking development needs a stable international and domestic environment. Stability is the prerequisite and guarantee for development, and development is the foundation and support for stability. Cadres and people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are deeply aware that, in the past, due to the frequent violent terrorist activities and spread of religious extremist ideologies , the region was in a state of chaos and could not achieve any development, and was even on the brink of losing the progress previously achieved. Now, the social harmony and stability have created opportunities for economic development, constantly delivering benefits. In 2017, Xinjiang's regional GDP reached 1.09 trillion yuan, the first time it went over one trillion yuan, with a year-on-year increase of 7.6%. Urban and rural residents' per capita disposable income annually saw a rise of 8.1% and 8.5% respectively, to 30,775 yuan and 11,045 yuan. In 2018, its GDP reached 1.22 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 6.1%. Urban and rural residents' per capita disposable income rose by 6.5% and 8.4% respectively, to 32,764 yuan and 11,975 yuan. In the first three quarters of 2019, the GDP increased by 6.1% year-on-year, while urban and rural residents' per capita disposable income rose by 5.6% and 9.5% respectively. In regard to tourism in Xinjiang, recognized as the "barometer" to measure the level of stable development, there was a sharp increase. In 2017, the number of tourist arrivals in Xinjiang exceeded 100 million for the first time to reach 107 million, and tourism revenue stood at 182.2 billion yuan, both up by over 30% year-on-year. In 2018, the region received 150 million tourists and tourism revenue reached 257.97 billion yuan, both up by over 40% year- on-year. In the first 10 months this year, the figure surpassed 200 million, producing revenue of more than 300 billion yuan, both up by over 40% year-on-year. People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have learned that "stability is a blessing while unrest is a scourge", and they will spare no effort in maintaining the sustained stability of the region.. No forces from home and abroad have the right and will be able to undermine the confidence and resolve of people in Xinjiang. Thanks.

Economic Daily:

Mr. Chairman, you just mentioned that over 70% of Xinjiang's general public budgetary expenditure is being used in ensuring and improving the people's livelihood. My question is what innovative measures have Xinjiang taken in terms of improving people's livelihood, such as in affordable education and medical care. Thank you.

Shohrat Zakir:

Thank you. Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has been espousing the people-centered development philosophy, delivering the outcomes of development to improving people's lives, benefiting various localities and enhancing ethnic solidarity. We continue to allocate 70% of our general public budgetary expenditure to ensure and improve people's livelihood, making continuous efforts in nine people-benefiting projects with focus on employment, education and medical care. Thus, people of all ethnic groups have enjoyed a much stronger sense of gain, happiness and security.

On employment, we have been improving services for college graduates and urban residents, and creating job opportunities for rural surplus labor, especially for those from deeply impoverished families. We also encourage people to start businesses and create jobs, and accelerate the implementation of the employment plan for surplus labor in the four prefectures in southern Xinjiang. We have ensured that at least one person from a family with available labor gets employed.

We also prioritize education. We have increased subsidies to students from impoverished families and ensured that all school-age youngsters have access to nine years of compulsory education. In the four prefectures in southern Xinjiang, 15-year free education is provided all the way from kindergarten to senior middle school. We have endeavored to ensure that education is affordable and quality teaching resources are accessible to every child.

On medical care, an annual free medical examination is available to all urban and rural residents, who are all under the coverage of accident insurance. We are now providing medical treatment for 133,000 people with tuberculosis, of whom 56,900 have been cured. Urban employees are fully insured against serious illnesses.

On social security, we are now implementing full coverage of social insurance and have been constantly improving the basic old-age, medical, unemployment, work-related injury and maternity insurance system. The work-related injury insurance fund is now managed by the autonomous region and we're now speeding up the building of a unified social insurance public service platform to ensure cross-region real time reimbursement and one-stop reimbursement for basic medical insurance and insurance for serious illnesses.

On housing, we have built 212,700 government-subsidized housing units in rural areas and renovated 154,900 units in run-down urban areas this year, all meeting or beating the annual target.

These are some of the specific measures we have taken in ensuring and improving people's livelihood. Thank you.

China Arab TV:

What's your views to the "Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019" passed by the House of Representatives recently? Thanks.

Shohrat Zakir:

Thank you for your question. The so called "Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019" passed by the United States ignores and distorts the true picture in Xinjiang. It has neglected social stability and harmony, economic prosperity and decent living standards and the working environment for all ethnic groups residing there. It distorts, smears and slanders the human rights condition and the Chinese government's policies in Xinjiang, interfering in China's internal affairs in bold, rude and brutal ways severely contravening international law and the basic norms governing international relations. We believe this is an absolute hegemonic act that has aroused an immense reprimand and strong opposition of all ethnic groups in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. 

Over the past few years, Xinjiang was subject to the hazards of terrorism, religious extremism and secessionism. It is estimated that violence and terrorist attacks that claimed a great many innocent lives and caused colossal loss of fortune occurred thousands of times between 1990 and 2016. I would like to take this opportunity to show you a short video about it.

From this video, in particular, I believe you can gain a direct impression of the serious consequences of the cruel and violent terrorist crimes in Xinjiang. We, the government of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, have been resolute in cracking down on all kinds of such crimes in regard to violence and terrorism while addressing their fundamental causes. We have countered terrorism and eradicated extremism in a lawful manner, to ensure, to the greatest possible extent, the fundamental rights, including the right to life, to subsistence and to development, for local people in all ethnic groups. So far, not a single case of violence or a terrorist attack has occurred in the past three years. Social stability has been maintained and local people have been able to live and work in a safe and enjoyable environment. The United States, which was impassive when the lives of people from all ethnic groups in Xinjiang were threatened by terrorism, is now agitated at the sound development and peaceful living environment in the region. It smears and attacks the autonomous region, especially in regard to this act you mentioned, to challenge the solidarity of different ethnic groups in China and sabotage Xinjiang's prosperity and stability in an obvious attempt to contain China's development.

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that, in regard to Xinjiang affairs, it is the people of all ethnic groups who live there, who have the final say. Any attempts to undermine the stability in Xinjiang are doomed to fail. The purposeful rumors, insults and falsified accusations will never put a brake on the actual progress being made on human rights in Xinjiang. Neither will they impede the unity of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang where development and prosperity are achieving unstoppable growth despite such interference. Thank you.

Macao Daily:

What's the legal basis for the vocational education and training center in Xinjiang? What achievements have been made? Thank you.

Shohrat Zakir:

This question will be answered by Xu Hairong, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee, and secretary of the CPC Urumqi Municipal Committee.

Xu Hairong:

Xinjiang is governed in accordance with the law, and we are actively carrying out this work based on legal thinking and legal methods. The legal basis for establishing vocational education and training centers are the Counter-Terrorism Law of the PRC, the Measures of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Implementing the Counter-terrorism Law of the PRC, and the Regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Deradicalization. According to these provisions, we have adopted some of school regulations to improve management of the vocational education and training centers. We have allocated teaching resources, opened courses such as standard spoken and written Chinese, legal knowledge and vocational skills, as well as deradicalization courses, and established education systems, as we continue to protect the lawful rights of the trainees. 

The training program has achieved good results as we spared no efforts in saving those who committed petty crimes or minor offenses while involved in terrorist and extremist activities, eradicating the soil and conditions that breed terrorism and religious extremism, while protecting the citizens' basic rights from the harm of terrorism and extremism.

I'd like to share with you some stories. The first one is about Dilixiati. She is a student who graduated from a vocational education and training center. She used to run an agritainment facility and earned a good income. However, after being influenced by religious groups, she believed her orchard would be defiled if heretics were allowed to eat under her apricot trees. So, she closed the agritainment facility and cut down the trees, living a hard life ever since. Her study in the vocational education and training center helped her realize the harm of religious extremism. Now, she despises the dogma that ruined her life. After her graduation, she reopened her business and rekindled hope in her life. This story tells us that, after study in vocational education and training centers, religious extremism has been cleared out from people's minds. 

The second story is about Buzuola Rozi. He is also a student who graduated from a vocational education and training center. With the help of local governments and the skills he learned from the center, he opened a Specialized Cooperative on embroidery. It has created over 30 jobs for local villagers, helping lift the fellow villagers out of poverty. This story tells us students can gain improvement in the centers and become useful talents for society.

The third story is about Zuoranmu Abuduyusufu. After his study in a vocational education and training center, he has not only got rid of all vestiges of religious extremism, but also began to take good care of his yard. He called for his neighbors to improve the village's environment together. Thus, he was awarded a model in protecting the environment. This story tells us that people in the centers pursue a modern and civilized life, and are now playing a leading role in improving the society.

Xinjiang has more stories like these. That's why all people in Xinjiang realized that, without the vocational education and training center, life in Xinjiang would not be as stable as it is today. People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang show their support for this endeavor. Since the end of last year, more than 1,000 people of over 70 delegations from 91 countries, including foreign officials, diplomatic envoys in China, media reporters and religious figures have visited vocational education and training centers. They all said what they witnessed in Xinjiang was different from the descriptions by the U.S. and some other Western countries. Xinjiang's counter-terrorism and de-radicalization approach fully conforms with the purposes and principles of the United Nations in combating terrorism and safeguarding basic human rights. Thank you.

NBC:

Last March, Xinjiang autonomous region government chairman Shohrat Zakir said, and I quote, "Generally speaking, we will have fewer and fewer people of these training centers. If one day the society no longer needs, then these training centers will gradually disappear." My question is: Is there any estimate of how many people are still in these training centers, and when they would likely begin to disappear? Thank you.

Shohrat Zakir:

Let me answer this question. Based on the grim situation of violent terrorist activities in Xinjiang, we set up the vocational education and training centers to carry out vocational skills education and training. The number of individuals participating in vocational skills education and training is dynamic, some come in and some go out. Some overseas media outlets claimed there were "a million or even 2 million" trainees in Xinjiang vocational education and training centers. Such claims are purely fabricated and unfounded. At present, all the trainees, who have participated in the education and training centers that integrate "the learning of standard Chinese language, laws and skills as well as de-radicalization," have completed their studies. With the help of the government, they steadily obtain employment, improve their quality of life, and live a happy life.

Practice proves the establishment of the vocational education and training centers is a useful exploration for Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to carry out the fight against terrorism and the work of de-radicalization in accordance with the law. As the next step, in order to meet the desires of grassroots cadres and the masses to improve their personal qualities, we will continue to provide daily, routine, normalized, and open education and training to village cadres, rural CPC Party members, farmers, herdsmen, and unemployed graduates from junior or senior high schools who are willing and have a demonstrable need, as we follow the principles of respecting individual will, allowing them to make an independent choice, categorizing the training on offer, and offering freedom to come and go. We will focus on educating and training them in speaking and writing standard Chinese language, knowledge about the laws, vocational skills, etc. Depending on the training contents, the training time can be either long or short. Thank you.

CGTN:

It is reported that Xinjiang is curtailing Muslim citizens' freedom of religious belief through demolishing mosques on a large scale, forbidding Muslims to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, and detaining some religious personnel who failed to win support from the government. Is such report true? Thank you.

Shohrat Zakir:

This question will be answered by Mr. Erkin Tuniyaz.

Erkin Tuniyaz:

Thank you for the question. The report you mentioned is false and groundless. Respecting and protecting freedom of religious belief is a basic policy of our country. The Constitution stipulates that citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief, and that the country protects normal religious activities. The Regulations on Religious Affairs promulgated by the State Council and the Regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Religious Affairs (promulgated by the local government of Xinjiang) reflect these constitutional principles.

In Xinjiang, we fully implement the policies on freedom of religious belief adopted by the Communist Party of China (CPC). All citizens, no matter whether they believe in a religion or not, equally enjoy political, economic, social and cultural rights. No citizen suffers discrimination or unfair treatment for believing in, or not believing in, any religion. Islam has achieved a great inheritance and sound development in Xinjiang. There are now more than 20,000 mosques, over 29,000 Islamic clerical personnel and 103 Islamic associations at all levels in the autonomous region. In addition, we have set up 10 religious colleges, including the Xinjiang Islamic Institute, which has eight branches at Kashgar, Hotan and Ili, and in the Xinjiang Islamic School. These institutes take in a certain number of students each year, providing them with a secondary vocational education or beyond. More than 1,000 students are studying in these colleges, which have the ability to house over 3,000 if necessary. Channels for believers to gain religious knowledge have been expanded. Religious classics, such as the Koran and Selections from Al-Sahih Muhammad Ibn-Ismail al-Bukhari, have been translated and published in the standard Chinese, Uygur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz languages. We have taken various measures to ensure successful pilgrimages to Mecca for Muslims. We arrange charter flights every year for them. The Xinjiang regional government funds the medical care and interpretation for pilgrims, and offers other services to ensure safe and orderly pilgrimages. So far, more than 50,000 Muslims in Xinjiang have been to Saudi Arabia on such pilgrimages.

As for the so-called large-scale mosque demolition in Xinjiang, this statement is simply groundless. Instead, local government at all levels in Xinjiang have made continuous effort to improve the public services of various mosques, and much work has been implemented accordingly. Mosques in Xinjiang have been equipped with water, electricity, road connectivity, natural gas, communications network, radio and television broadcasting facilities and libraries; ablution facilities and flushing toilets have been installed in some mosques to facilitate Jumu'ah prayers. Other facilities installed or added to mosques include medical services, LED screens, computers, electric fans or air conditioners, fire-fighting equipment, natural gas, drinking water facilities, shoe coverings or automatic dispenser of shoe coverings, and lockers. All of these provide great convenience to worship, and have been much appreciated by religious personnel and believers.

Various facts have proven that the policies on the freedom of religious belief have been fully implemented in Xinjiang. Muslims' freedom of religious belief is protected by law, and their normal religious needs have been effectively satisfied. For some Western politicians and media who share a self-imposed bias and adopt a double standard on religious issues, we urge them to look at China's religious policies and freedom of religious belief in an unbiased manner, and stop using religion as a pretext to interfere in other countries' internal affairs. Thank you.

Yomiuri Shimbun:

Recently, it was reported that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) obtained "classified documents" concerning Xinjiang, claiming to "expose the inner workings of mass detention camps in Xinjiang". Could you clarify whether this document is authentic or not? If the document is fake, what is the basis for your judgment? Thank you.

Shohrat Zakir:

I would like to invite Mr. Xu Hairong to take this question.

Xu Hairong:

I want to emphasize again that there is no such thing as a so-called "detention camp" in Xinjiang. The so-called reports released by the New York Times, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other overseas media and organizations have wantonly discredited the vocational education and training centers and smeared the Chinese government's genuine efforts in counter-terrorism and de-radicalization. China expresses strong indignation and firm opposition to such reportage. China's Xinjiang policy is transparent, righteous and consistent. The Party and government adhere to the people-centered development approach and continuously improve the sense of fulfillment, happiness and security of people of all ethnic groups. Any attack, slander or smear on Xinjiang is futile. The efforts made by officials and people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang to realize social stability and long-term security and order deserve fair comments by the international community. Thank you.

Xinhua:

Xinjiang, especially southern Xinjiang, is a neighborhood of ethnic minorities, and also a State-level destitute area featuring a tough task in poverty alleviation. At present, how many poverty-stricken counties and population are there in Xinjiang? And what kinds of difficulties and challenges do you face during the poverty alleviation work? Thank you.

Shohrat Zakir:

Mr. Parhat Rozi will answer your question.

Parhat Rozi:

Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region always adheres to the basic strategy of targeted poverty alleviation, and we are making all-out efforts to win the battle. This year, we have earnestly implemented a series of strategies to alleviate poverty, including "two no worries, three guarantees", "seven batches" and "three intensified efforts. The "two no worries" refer to achieving the goal of poverty alleviation so that those who have been living in poverty no longer have to worry about food and clothing. And the "three guarantees" refer to achieving the goal of guaranteeing compulsory education, basic medical treatment and housing security. The "seven batches" refer to supporting the poor households through labor reallocation, industrial development, relocation, eco-compensation, service purchase, social security, and training poor people into border guards. And the "three intensified efforts" refer to getting people out of poverty through promoting education, improving health care service, and building more infrastructures. By doing so, we have made great progress. From 2014 to 2018, a total of 588,700 households involving 2.3147 million people have been lifted out of poverty, so that we have been able to remove 2,131 villages and 13 counties from the poverty list. The poverty incidence rate has dropped to 6.51% from 22.48% in early 2014. 

We will maintain our focus on impoverished people with targeted and differentiated measures, and pool all resources at our disposal to win the battle against poverty. In 2020, all rural residents are expected to have been lifted out of poverty; by then, people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang will become members of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, along with all other parts of China. Thank you.

Associated Press of Pakistan:

In recent years, the global security situation has become increasingly complex, and pressure for fight against terrorism has increased. Could you please brief us about the current security and stability situation in Xinjiang? 

Shohrat Zakir:

Thank you for your question. So far, Xinjiang has seen no violent terrorist attacks for three consecutive years, with infiltration of extremism being effectively contained, social public security notably improved, and people of all ethnic groups living and working in peace. People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang understand that the peace and stability evident today did not come easy, and we all hope that this kind of harmonious situation will continue. Thank you.

The Global Times:

Will the Xinjiang regional government allow international human rights organizations, diplomatic envoys of Western countries in China, and foreign journalists to go to the region for interviews and news coverage? Thank you.

Shohrat Zakir:

Mr. Xu Hairong please answer this question.

Xu Hairong:

Xinjiang is a good place. People of all ethnic groups there are hospitable. We open our arms to welcome guests from all over the world. Confucius, the ancient Chinese sage, once said "it is such a pleasure to have friends coming from afar." As I said earlier, since the end of 2018, we have invited more than 1,000 people of more than 70 groups from 91 countries to visit Xinjiang. They have generally stated that what they saw and heard in Xinjiang was completely different from the picture being painted by some American and Western politicians and media outlets. We know that the Chinese diplomatic service has issued invitations to senior U.N. human rights officials many times, and currently maintains close communications with the world body. However, the American government and some other governments of the West continue to demand that China to allow U.N. officials to visit Xinjiang; on the other hand, they have pressured and interfered with the U.N. officials who have visited Xinjiang, including very senior people. I think this approach suggests a hidden political agenda.

Xinjiang is an open region. We welcome anyone from all parties and all countries to visit the region on the premise of respecting China's sovereignty, abiding by Chinese laws, and treating each other as equals. Thank you.

Hu Kaihong:

Now, it's time for the last question.

Hong Kong-based Economic Herald:

What progress has Xinjiang made in accelerating the building of the core area of Silk Road Economic Belt? Thank you.

Shohrat Zakir:

I'm glad to answer your question. Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is committed to implementing the Belt and Road Initiative, focusing on "one port, two zones, five centers, and a customs-based economic belt." The "port" refers to Urumqi International Land Port Area, to be developed into a landmark project in the core area of Silk Road Economic Belt, playing an important role in gathering commodities, building industrial parks and attracting businesses. Currently, the China-Europe Train Urumqi Center is operating smoothly. The number of west-bound international freight trains departing from Xinjiang has now exceeded 3,000. The "two zones" refers to the Horgos and Kashgar economic development zones, located in the northern and southern parts of Xinjiang respectively. Enjoying preferential policies from the central authorities, the two zones are committed to attracting businesses, and making themselves important pillars and demonstration zones for innovative development in the two areas. The "five centers" refers to the five Urumqi-based centers covering land routes west of Xinjiang. Specifically, they are: a transportation center, a trade and logistics center, a cultural and sci-tech education center, a regional financial center, and a medical service center covering Central Asia. Meanwhile, we have promoted the effective implementation of a batch of major infrastructure as well as economic and social cooperation projects. At present, there are 21 civil aviation airports in Xinjiang, and more are under construction. The railway network now exceeds 6,000 km in length. Expressways among 14 prefectures and cities in Xinjiang form a network. The Lanzhou-Xinjiang high-speed railway has been operating for years. From January to October this year, our total foreign trade imports and exports increased by 28% year-on-year, and it is expected to maintain 20% annual growth or more. We have set up a pilot zone for innovation-driven development of the Silk Road Economic Belt, attracting more than 130 industry-university-research institutions. Last year, the added value of strategic emerging industries in the region increased by 13% year-on-year, and the added value of high-tech manufacturing industry increased by 33%. Xinjiang has carried out cross-border RMB business with 98 countries and regions. Habib Bank Limited of Pakistan has also set up an institution in Xinjiang, and the China-Kazakhstan Horgos International Border Cooperation Center has realized the cross-border transfer of Kazakh tenge cash. In addition, 12 hospitals in Xinjiang have joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Hospital Alliance and established remote medical service platforms with neighboring countries. In the past four years, we have admitted more than 20,000 foreign patients. The port economic belt, incorporating 19 national-level open ports, vigorously contributes to the development of an export-oriented economy such as the import and export commodity processing industry, border (cross-border) tourism, commodity exchange of people living along the border, and e-commerce. The "passage economy" is being transforming into an "industrial economy" and a "ports economy," and the geographical and resource advantages of Xinjiang are being translated into economic advantages. This is what we have already done in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, especially those taking advantage of geographical advantages as a core region of Silk Road Economic Belt. In the future, we will continue to increase the construction of core areas on the Silk Road Economic Belt westward. Thank you!

Hu Kaihong:

Today's briefing is hereby concluded. Thanks to the four speakers and thanks to the journalists.

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