BEIJING Authorities in a violence prone area of China's western Xinjiang region are offering 100 million yuan ($14.5 million) in rewards for anti-terror tips, state media said, a policy that coincides with a dramatic rise in regional security spending.
Hundreds of people have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years, most in unrest between members of the Muslim Uighur minority, who call the region home, and ethnic majority Han Chinese. Beijing blames the unrest on Islamist militants.
After a period of relative calm, there has been a rise in violence in recent months in the region's south, which includes the Uighur heartland of Hotan, where officials are offering hefty rewards for people with information on violations ranging from violent attacks to illegal beards.
The rewards range up to 5 million yuan ($730,000) for verifiable "operational inside information" on plans for attacks in crowded areas or at government and Communist Party departments, the state-run Hotan Daily said on Tuesday.
"The awards for reporting violent terrorists and religious extremists establishing ties, or inciting or swearing oaths of holy war, or clues on the organisation of illegal cross-border entry and exit are 3 million yuan to 2 million yuan," the newspaper said.
The policy includes payment for "absolutely confidential" tips on crimes such as supplying guns and inciting crowds to petition over grievances.
At the bottom of the range, tipsters can get 2,000 yuan ($290) for reporting "face coverings and robes, youth with long beards, or other popular religious customs that have been radicalised", the newspaper said.
Other places in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China have offered rewards in the past, though usually not as much as being offered in Hotan.
Security forces have organised rallies against militant violence in Xinjiang in the past week following a spate of attacks, with hundreds of police and armoured vehicles parading through the streets of the regional capital Urumqi, and in Hotan.
Three knife-wielding attackers killed five people and injured five before being shot dead in Hotan this month.
State media reported in January that Xinjiang's spending on public security jumped 19.3 percent in 2016 to more than 30 billion yuan.
The government has blamed much of the unrest on separatist Islamist militants, though rights groups and exiles say anger at tightening Chinese controls on the religion and culture of Uighurs is more to blame.
China routinely denies any repression in Xinjiang.
($1 = 6.8776 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Michael Martina)