China's Xinjiang offers leniency for 'terrorists' who turn themselves in

Paramilitary policemen stand in formation as they take part in an anti-terrorism oath-taking rally, in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, February 27, 2017. Picture taken February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in China's western region of Xinjiang on Tuesday offered leniency to "separatists, terrorists and religious extremists" who turn themselves in, the latest in a string of recent security measures in the violence-prone region.

China says militants have stirred up tension in Xinjiang, where hundreds of people have been killed in recent years in unrest between mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs and majority Han Chinese.

Officials say they face a determined campaign by separatists who want to set up an independent state called East Turkestan.

Police, courts and prosecutors in Xinjiang's southern region of Kashgar offered "leniency" or "exemption from punishment" in return for full confessions to a wide range of crimes – from planning and inciting terrorism or separatism to making explosives, guns and ammunition.

Other violations eligible for leniency range from using religious extremism to break marriage and family planning laws and forcing others to wear religious extremist garb, to "buying matches in large quantities", according to a posting on Xinjiang's official public security WeChat messaging account.

But individual have to turn themselves in to authorities, however.

Those who surrender explosives, guns, ammunition, controlled blades, and other harmful chemicals and items, "could receive monetary compensation depending on the situation", the post said.

Thousands of Chinese armed police have staged mass parades and rallies in Xinjiang in recent weeks, in what officials have called a "declaration of war" on militants and separatist forces.

Along with the show of force, authorities have rolled out tough measures, from helicopter patrols to hefty rewards for tips, and mandatory satellite tracking for some vehicles.

However, many rights groups and exiles doubt the existence of a coherent militant group in Xinjiang and say Uighur anger at repressive Chinese policies is more to blame for the unrest.

Late last month, Uighurs purportedly fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq released a video threatening China and vowing to shed Chinese blood.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)