Xinjiang's Stability Reflected By Double Growth in Tourist Arrival - Official

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By Nur Ashikin Abdul Aziz

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 (Bernama) -- The incredible increase in tourist arrivals to China’s Xinjiang this year reflects greater stability in the autonomous region long marred by conflicts, said a local senior official.

Xinjiang Information Office vice-director Ailit Shaliyefu said compared to just 40 million tourists two years ago, the region had already recorded nearly double that number between January and July this year, with 75 million local and overseas tourists.

"Development of tourism requires stability in society and with that, Xinjiang has been able to attract more and more tourists. In fact, we expect to receive more than 100 million tourists by the end of 2018," he told visiting foreign journalists in Xinjiang recently, through a translator.

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, home to 23 million of China's 56 ethnic groups, saw a series of violent incidents which Beijing blamed on Uygur separatists. Among them, the 2009 Urumqi riots which resulted in the death of nearly 200 and thousands injured.

Shaliyefu highlighted that like many other countries, China also faced terrorism.

"I believe some of the news you read about Xinjiang may be biased. I know that we have some problem, but I believe these problems will be solved in the future," he said.

He noted that as the livelihood of many in Xinjiang, such as those in the old town of Kashgar and Kanas, depended on tourism and business activities, they rejected terrorism or separatist movements as stability was vital for them.

The official also said that closer cooperation between the central and local governments, as well as the citizens of the region in many areas such as infrastructure, telecommunications and healthcare had produced great changes and results in the development of Xinjiang after 2014.

Shaliyefu said, in 2017 alone, the central government had invested 214 million yuan (about US$30 million) to build highways in the region. Meanwhile, a six lined-subway covering the distance of 100km will also be open to public soon.

"This shows how unprecedented the central government support to Xinjiang is," he added.

Shaliyefu noted that the Urumqi Diwopu International Airport was currently not only connected to major cities in China but also many international destinations in central Asia and Europe, such as Moscow (Russia), Astana (Kazakhstan), Islamabad (Pakistan) and Tbilisi (Georgia). 

"In the future, we’ll see more airlines and more flights to even further places."

According to a report, the airport handled over 21 million passengers in 2017, making it the 18th busiest airport in China by passenger traffic.

Fifteen journalists from 13 countries were invited by the State Council Information Office of China to Xinjiang from Aug 25-31.