Xinjiang is home to Uighur Muslims and Tibet is home to ethnic Tibetan Buddhists. Both regions have witnessed turmoil in recent years, with conflicts centering largely on differences with the country’s majority Han Chinese.
Chinese authorities accuse forces in both regions of working to break away from China. Many Uighurs and Tibetans accuse Beijing of marginalizing their cultures and repressing their people.
In Beijing Tuesday, Nur Bekri, the chairman of Xinjiang’s regional government, said the top priorities there are maintaining stability and fighting separatism.
He says Xinjiang is currently generally stable and improving. But he says the task of maintaining stability is complicated and heavy because the foundations are weak and the situation is still “severe.”
Official numbers say nearly 200 people were killed by violent riots in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, in 2009.
The Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian, says he thinks the region’s stability depends on whether everyone benefits economically.
He says he is confident in and “not at all worried” about Xinjiang’s stability. He added that he will learn what he described as “technical” lessons from the Middle East, although he did not provide details.
Chinese police have rounded up scores of dissidents since online messages from abroad urged pro-democracy gatherings inspired by the Jasmine Revolutions in the Middle East.
Officials also have asserted they intend to maintain order in Tibet, which is still recovering from riots in the capital, Lhasa, in 2008.
Qiangba Puncog, of Tibet’s National People’s Congress committee, acknowledged that the Dalai Lama still has religious clout among Tibetans. But he says the exiled spiritual leader has no political influence, and that China is prepared to maintain stability in the region if the Dalai Lama were to die.
He says because of what he called the Dalai Lama’s “special religious impact”, the death will come as shock to some people. But he says the Chinese government has already thought about it thoroughly, and is capable of ensuring Tibet’s long-term political and economic stability.
The Dalai Lama is 76 years old and has had health problems in recent years. There is a controversy over the selection of his reincarnation, who by tradition will replace him. The Dalai Lama says the practice may be abolished, but the Chinese government says it is not his decision.
After the death of Tibetan Buddhism’s second highest ranking spiritual leader, the Panchen Lama, Beijing refused to accept the Dalai Lama’s choice and appointed another boy instead.
The regional officials spoke in Beijing on the sidelines of the National Peoples’ Congress, which is holding its annual session.