Amid rising terror threats, China has tightened security at its borders with PoK and Afghanistan to prevent terrorists from entering or leaving its volatile Xinjiang province which has recently witnessed violent attacks allegedly by the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement.
The province has already stepped up efforts in entry-exit management last year and continues to tighten the security this year, Shohrat Zakir, the Xinjiang chairman, told Xinjiang's local provincial council.
Many terrorists who carried out attacks in the region in recent years received training abroad and then returned illegally.
Some also crossed the border illegally to flee, Aniwar Turson, a top ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) official of Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture, was quoted as saying by the state-run media. Kashgar prefecture borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Afghanistan.
"We need to make sure not a single terrorist can get in or out of Xinjiang illegally, especially when our neighboring countries are facing rising terrorist threats," Aniwar was quoted as saying by state-run China Daily.
"Xinjiang, which borders eight countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been China's main battleground in the fight against terrorism," the daily reported.
China's official media refers to PoK borders with Xinjiang as Pakistan border without mentioning its disputed status.
It is the same region through which the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being built.
Mention of Pakistan in relation to the problem of terrorism in Xinjiang is rare in the Chinese media as ETIM has in the past had training bases in Pakistan's tribal areas.
Pakistan army has conducted special operations in recent years to clear them under pressure from China.
However, a large number of the militants from the Muslim Uyghur majority province reported to have crossed over to Syria through Turkey and joined Islamic State.
Last year, Chinese official media reported that Chinese and Pakistan border troops have launched border patrolling to curb infiltration.
China has also launched Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism along with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan to counter terrorism in the Xinjiang border region.
China apprehends that many of them return to stir trouble in Muslim Uyghur majority Xinjiang which largely remained peaceful last year after years of turmoil as China stepped up security.
But two major incidents in the last few days raised concerns about return of violence to Xinjiang where Uyghurs were restive over the settlements of Hans from other provinces.
On Sunday, three terrorists were killed in a police raid in southern Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture. The suspects wanted in connection with a 2015 attack resisted arrest and were shot dead, official media had reported.
A terrorist attack left five dead in Hotan's Moyu county on December 28. Two top officials of the prefecture have been put under investigation.
Azez Musar, a senior official of southern Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture, was quoted as saying that terrorist cells are particularly active in border areas in Xinjiang.
"We must improve our ability to detect suspicious activities in those areas and conduct strict inspections near the borders in accordance with the law," he said.
It has been more than four months since Chen Quanguo, former Party chief of the Tibet autonomous region, stepped in as the new leader of Xinjiang.
Chen sees keeping the region stable as the overriding political goal. Chen decided Xinjiang officials would concentrate first on maintaining social stability. The other main goal is the region's social and economic development.
He also warned officials that they would be evaluated based on the security situation.