Beijing: Defending the crackdown against Islamic militants in the restive Xinjiang province, China on Thursday said suppression of religious extremism is a "just move" to protect all people, including Muslims.
A Chinese government white paper on Xinjiang province, where Uyghur Muslims who formed the majority were restive over increasing settlements of Hans from other parts?of China, said jihadi ideology is manipulating young people to become terrorists to kill innocent people.
"China respects and protects the religious belief freedom of people in Xinjiang, but will firmly curb religious extremism in line with the law," the paper said.
"Suppressing religious extremism in accordance with the law is a just move that protects the fundamental interests of the state and the people, including Muslims," the white paper featuring ethnic equality, unity and development in Xinjiang said.
"Religious extremists advocate extreme ideas, incite religious hatred and resentment against other religions, and undermine Xinjiang's religious harmony and ethnic unity," it said.
"They also deny the traditional Islam in Xinjiang, distort and contravene Islamic theology, causing damage to its internal harmony and jeopardising the fundamental interests of Muslims," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the paper as saying.
The province bordering Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Afghanistan is experiencing spate of violent attacks carried out by al Qaeda backed East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which is waging a separatist movement.
China has deployed large security forces to counter the militancy, while Pakistan in recent months is carrying out a crackdown in the tribal areas to destroy ETIM training bases.
"The religious extremism has turned some individuals, especially the young people, into extremists and even terrorists who are manipulated to frequently perform acts of violence and terrorism and kill innocent people of all ethnic groups, even their fellow Islamic clerics and Muslims," it said.
The white paper was released coinciding with the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the US where some of the dissident Uyghur activists live.
Amid allegations of imposing restrictions on Uyghur officials and students from observing Ramadan fasts, the paper said the autonomous region has always pursued the policy of freedom of religious belief, protecting normal religious activities while strengthening fight against extremism to ensure the people's safety.
There are 24,400 mosques with 28,600 clerical personnel
in Xinjiang. The central government has allocated over USD 1.6 million for maintaining or repairing a number of key mosques and religious sites since the 1980s, it said.
Asserting that Xinjiang was documented as forming part of China's territories as early as 60 BC and become its integral part, it said Xinjiang created a distinctive multi-ethnic culture, which became an important part of overall Chinese culture.
Xinjiang also became a key gateway connecting China with the rest of the world and disseminating diverse cultures, it said.
Stressing ethnic unity among Uyghurs and Hans, the paper said the region has focused on eliminating ethnic misunderstandings carried over from the past and has firmly opposed any form of ethnic oppression or discrimination, and outlawed any action that might sabotage ethnic unity or incite ethnic separatism.
About the economic development of the province, the paper said China has granted about USD 266.6 billion to the region over the past 60 years for its development.
The gross regional product (GRP) of the region marked a growth of over 115-fold from 1955 to 2014.