Beijing: After attempt to promote mixed marriages between Muslim Uygurs and Hans in Xinjiang, China is building a pilot settlement for residents from multiple ethnic communities in rural desert area of the troubled province to curb growing militancy and facilitate cultural exchanges.
"Hotan is the city in Xinjiang with the highest population (about 95 per cent) of Uyghurs, proportionally speaking. That's what has made the settlement project a focus of attention," Li Xiaoxia, a professor with the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told state-run Global Times.Xinjiang, the home of about 11 million Uygurs, is in the grip of violent attacks in the last few years following unrest among them over increasing settlements Hans from other provinces.
East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an al-Qaeda backed organisation fighting for the separation of Xinjiang, has become active in the province and carried out major terrorist attacks in and out of the province which borders, Pakistan- occupied Kashmir, Afghanistan and some Central Asian states.
Analysts cautioned that the plan to build such a multi- ethnic settlement in the desert city of Hotan could impede the government from promoting similar settlements elsewhere.
According to state-run Xinjiang Daily yesterday, the 6,700 mu, or 447 hectares, residential community, intended to help foster economic and social integration among different ethnic groups, is currently under construction in the desert outside the city of Hotan, and will be ready for residents to move in at the end of this year.
The new settlement will consist of 600 housing apartments and 600 greenhouses. Built on an area with abundant groundwater, it will provide every household with a greenhouse, a courtyard and 0.33 hectares of fruit orchard to facilitate agricultural entrepreneurialism.
Over 6,000 peasant households from minority ethnic groups and 700 Han farmers from nearby villages and townships have applied to move into the community, and will go through a selection process competing for the 600 openings.
The criteria for selection have yet to be disclosed. This is the second pilot project undertaken by China to address the ethnic unrest.
Early this month Xinjiang's Qiemo county government announced wide ranging social benefits.
Under this mixed marriage, couples will receive 10,000 yuan (USD 1,627) for five years. It also offers privileged access to housing, education, employment and welfare benefits.