China campaigns against religious extremism in Xinjiang-Xinhua

Beijing, China - China's far western Xinjiang region has launched a campaign to stamp out rising religious extremism, state media said on Wednesday, after several violent attacks blamed on separatist Islamic fundamentalists.

Xinjiang is home to the mainly Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighur people, many of whom chafe at Chinese government controls on their culture and religion.

Provincial authorities aim via "public lectures" throughout Xinjiang to "rally mass support for the government's religious policies and to discourage illegal religious activities," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"Officials will elaborate on the government's religious policies and the danger of illegal religious activities, while lecturers from religious circles will advocate proper dress codes, patriotism and efforts to promote peace and discourage violence."

In January, authorities said that seven people killed by police in Xinjiang had been trying to leave the country to wage "holy war."

In September, courts in Xinjiang sentenced four people to death for violence in two cities over the past summer in which 32 people were killed.

The government blamed the incidents in Kashgar and Hotan -- both in the majority Uighur southern part of Xinjiang -- on religious hardliners who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.

Exile groups and human rights activists say China overstates the threat posed by Islamic militants in energy-rich Xinjiang, which sits astride south and central Asia.