Beijing: The new head of China`s restive Xinjiang region -- the scene of deadly ethnic unrest last year -- has pledged a renewed crackdown on separatist elements, state media said on Monday.
"We must clearly recognise the serious and extremely complex nature of the struggle between separatism and anti-separatism," the Xinjiang Daily quoted Zhang Chunxian as saying in remarks to the region`s armed police on Saturday.
"Maintaining stability must come before all else ... we must strike hard at all the separatist and destructive activities brought on by the three forces of terrorism, separatism and religious extremism."
Zhang was appointed the region`s Communist Party boss in April, more than nine months after nearly 200 people were killed in clashes pitting mainly Muslim Uighurs against members of China`s dominant Han group.
China regularly blames "separatists" for stoking episodes of ethnic unrest, as it did in connection with the violence in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi, but has provided no evidence of any organised separatism.
Zhang, 57, replaced Wang Lequan, who had served as China`s top leader in Xinjiang for nearly 15 years and was responsible for handling the July 2009 violence in the vast resource-rich region bordering Central Asia.
Xinjiang`s roughly eight million Uighurs -- a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people -- have seethed under Chinese control for decades, alleging political, religious and cultural oppression by Beijing.
To fight the simmering discontent, China will from 2001 pour around CNY 10 billion (USD 1.5 billion) in economic aid into Xinjiang, in a bid at raise the living standards of the Uighur minority, state media has reported.
Xinjiang is one of China`s poorest areas, but its economy has been among the country`s fastest-growing in recent years thanks to stepped-up development of its energy and mineral resources to meet soaring demand in major urban centres.