China's turbulent Xinjiang weighs anti-terror laws for the first time

An ethnic Uighur man drives a tricycle near a construction site for new houses in Turpan, Xinjiang province October 31, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's restive far western region of Xinjiang is considering drafting anti-terror laws for the first time, following a string of deadly incidents, a state-run newspaper said on Friday. Authorities are keen to clamp down on unrest that has killed more than 100 people during the past year in the resource-rich region, where tensions have long simmered between a large Muslim Uighur minority and growing numbers of ethnic Han Chinese. Work on the anti-terror law is planned to start this year, although finalizing a draft may take several years, legislative official Bo Xiao told the China Daily. "The legislation is in the second phase of this year's legislative work plan," said Bo, director of a regional law-drafting body, adding that discussion now centered on the feasibility and impact of the law. China uses its Criminal Law to tackle what it calls terror-related crimes in Xinjiang, but regional officials consider this inadequate for some cases. Some have said Muslim extremists there receive help from militants in neighboring countries. While authorities adopt a tougher stance against dissent in Xinjiang, many Uighurs resent curbs on their culture and religion, though Beijing says it grants them broad freedoms. This week authorities denied legal access to detained scholar Ilham Tohti, a professor who has championed the rights of Uighurs and is charged with separatism. In February, Chinese forces killed 11 "terrorists" near the region's border with Kyrgyzstan. Five suspected Islamist militants were arrested in October, after what police called a terrorist attack on Beijing's central Tiananmen square. Exiles and rights groups say the real cause of the unrest is China's own policies, including curbs on Islam and the Uighur people's culture and language, charges the government denies. (Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)