East Turkestan: China urged to expand military in East Turkestan
Zhang Qingli, commander-in-chief of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp, an offshoot of the People’s Liberation Army that was established in the ethnic Uighur-dominated region 50 years ago to ensure Chinese rule, made the call. “The corps should not be weakened but be enlarged in the new era with the main task to develop the economy, maintain the stability of Xinjiang, promote unity among ethnic groups and consolidate border defence,” Zhang was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vowed during a recent visit to Xinjiang to reinforce the role of the corp for similar reasons, the report said. The 2.54-million strong corp staffs 186 regimental farms and more than 1,500 industrial, construction, transport and commercial enterprises in Xinjiang, Xinhua said. It does not form a part of China’s 2.5-million-strong People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest standing army.
Nonetheless it “plays an irreplaceable role in smashing and resisting internal and external attempts at sabotage and infiltration, and maintains the stability and safety of the borders of the country,” Xinhua said.
The corp has also played a role in “a recent battle against the so-called ‘Eastern Turkistan’ terrorist group,” it said. The Muslim group has long called for the establishment of an independent area in the region called East Turkestan
Source: Daily Times