China official says some Xinjiang Party members back 'terrorist acts'

BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior official from China's violence-torn Xinjiang region questioned on Tuesday the loyalty of some ruling Communist Party members there, saying some even supported "terrorist acts". The comments are a rare admission of dissent among Xinjiang's officials over Beijing's policies, which have been condemned by human rights advocates as a major cause for unrest, in the region. China's government says it faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists in energy-rich Xinjiang, on the border of central Asia, where hundreds have died in violence in recent years. China is in a period of heightened terrorism and fierce anti-separatist struggle, said Xu Hairong, the secretary of the Xinjiang Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party's watchdog in the region. While most party officials love Xinjiang, others criticize high-level policies and openly issue demands that go against the party, Xu said in a commentary in the agency's official newspaper. "Some waver on clear cut issues of opposing ethnic division and safeguarding ethnic and national unity, and even support participating in violent terrorist acts," Xu said. Rights groups and many foreign experts doubt that a cohesive militant Islamist group exists in Xinjiang, and say the violence stems from popular anger at Chinese controls on religion and culture of the Muslim Uighur people who live there. Beijing vehemently denies accusations of rights abuses, though independent verification of the situation in Xinjiang is hard because of tight government controls on visits by foreign reporters. Xu's remarks come as Chinese leaders have pledged greater international cooperation to combat terrorism in the wake of recent attacks in Mali and Paris. Three Chinese executives were killed in Mali when Islamist militants stormed a hotel, and Beijing vowed justice when Islamic State killed a Chinese captive last week. (Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)