Tourists go sightseeing at the International Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, July 13, 2019. The bazaar in Urumqi saw nearly 80,000 tourist trips per day during the recent tourist rush season. (Xinhua/Pan Ying)
A group of journalists from 24 countries visited northwest China's XinjiangUygur Autonomous Region from July 14 to 22 at the invitation of China's State Council Information Office.
During the trip, the journalists, from countries including China, the United States, Russia, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran, interacted extensively with local farmers, students, clerics, workers as well as trainees at vocational education and training centers.
They agreed that the Chinese government has made progress in cracking down on and preventing terrorism according to the law, safeguarding the religious freedom of its citizens, preserving traditional culture of minor ethnic groups and improving people's livelihoods.
Since the 1990s, the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism both at home and abroad plotted and organized thousands of violent terrorist activities and gravely damaged the stability, solidarity and progress of Xinjiang, trampling the fundamental human rights to life, health, property and development for the people in Xinjiang.
At the Xinjiang International Convention &Exhibition Center, the media delegation watched an exhibition on major terrorist cases in the region.
Edvard Chesnokov, deputy director of the international news department of Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Russian newspaper, said terrorism is a global threat, and combating terrorism and building a peaceful society are the shared goals of all countries.
In recent years, Xinjiang has focused on the prevention of terrorism by striking at the root and source of the problems. It aims to forestall terrorist attacks by providing a platform for the people who have been influenced by extremist thoughts and committed minor crimes so they can transform their thoughts, learn the Mandarin language, boost legal awareness and master vocational skills.
There have been no violent terror crimes in Xinjiang in the past 30 months, authorities said.
"The preventive measures taken by the Chinese government against terrorism have been effective and provided a model for other countries to learn from," said Obidov Mukhammad Dalimovich, president of the Fergana regional branch of the Creative Union of Journalists of Uzbekistan.
At the vocational education and training centers in the city of Artux and the counties of Shule, Wensu and Moyu, the journalists inquired in great detail about the life and education of the trainees.
The trainees study Mandarin, knowledge on laws, and take practical courses on dressmaking, auto repair, hairdressing, e-commerce, electrical work, planting and farming.
At the center in Shule County, the journalists were impressed by the spacious buildings, well-equipped lodging facilities as well as the ethnic dance performances by the trainees.
"This is a school, not a concentration camp," said Paolo Salom, deputy director of the international department of the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera. "It's a place where people learn not only laws and regulations but also how to find a job and cope in modern society. To overcome extremism through education, no doubt, is the right way."
Abdulaziz Raddad A. Alrabie, director of the Mecca office of Okaz, a Saudi Arabian newspaper, said the vocational education and training center is in no way a "concentration camp," but a school where people with extremist thoughts are transformed.
"I saw genuine smiles on the faces of the trainees I interviewed, and I can tell they are satisfied with their life and study at the center," Alrabie said.
CULTURE, TRADITION PRESERVED
During the nine-day tour, the delegation visited a number of religious institutions, including the Xinjiang Islamic Institute in the regional capital Urumqi and the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, and inquired about the training of religious personnel and the maintenance of religious places.
Khaled Jihad Abdul-Razzaq Al-Saleh, a journalist from the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Watan, said he didn't see any person here whose religious freedom was interfered with, and the Muslims in Xinjiang enjoy the freedom to practice their religion.
Hashemi Seyedeh Sepideh Seyed Hashem, a reporter from the Iranian Students' News Agency, commended the measures taken by the Chinese government to protect religious freedom. "It's good to see everybody is free to choose their own religious beliefs," she said.
The journalists also visited the Xinjiang Muqam Art Troupe in Urumqi, the handicrafts bazaar in the old city of Kashgar and the Kirgiz embroidery research center in Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture. They interviewed local artists and craftsmen and watched a number of cultural performances by the artists.
Sakchai Pruedthipak, president of the Thai social media website www.salika.co, said the performances demonstrated the Chinese government's efforts in conserving ethnic tradition and cultures.
After watching a dance drama at the Xinjiang Grand Theater in the city of Changji, Syed Jawwad, CEO of India's Embassy News, posted pictures of the performance on social media, which garnered more than 300 replies from Indian netizens in two hours.
"The drama shows different kinds of ethnic dances. It was magical and eye-popping," Jawwad said. "Xinjiang is a place where you can find so many different cultures. I'll strongly recommend anyone who loves culture to visit Xinjiang."
Xinjiang is the largest provincial-level region in China in terms of landmass and also one of the less developed areas. The journalists visited the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, the economic development zone in Kashgar and some village factories in southern Xinjiang and were impressed by the social and economic progress in the region.
"Xinjiang now has modern factories and improved infrastructure. The residents live in well-maintained houses, work in factories and have stable incomes, and they are confident about the future," said Dalimovich, who has visited Xinjiang for several times.
Abrar Naseem Wahla, an anchor from Pakistan Television, said he saw local governments in Xinjiang are stepping up infrastructure construction, such as building roads, hospitals and tourist centers, and are working to provide more job opportunities for local residents.
The delegation also visited Kekeya in the Aksu Prefecture, a place located on the edge of the Taklimakan Desert. Once notorious for constant sandstorms, Kekeya has seen a marked improvement of its natural environment, thanks to an afforestation project launched in 1986 that has erected a "green wall" with an area of around 77,000 hectares between the desert and nearby towns.
"I'm glad to see the desert has been converted into green fields with the efforts of the Chinese government and local people. Such an environment helps people live better lives," Chesnokov said.