WASHINGTON-Chinese authorities in the northwestern province of Xinjiang have burned tens of thousands of books as part of an effort to curb separatism among ethnic Uyghurs, Radio Free Asia (RFA)'s Uyghur service reported. The government-owned Kashgar Uyghur Publishing House burned 128 copies of A Brief History of the Huns and Ancient Uyghur Literature, which officials view as fomenting separatism. It also burned 32,320 copies of Ancient Uyghur Craftsmanship, also regarded as promoting separatist religious beliefs, according to sources in Kashgar. Ancient Uyghur Craftsmanship, published in Kashgar in 1988, documents centuries-old Uyghur techniques of papermaking, candle-making, carpentry, carpet-making, and silk-weaving. Its opening inscription includes verses from the Koran. "Burning these Uyghur history books is like burning the Uyghur people," said one local Uyghur. According to the official Kashgar Daily, the Kashgar Uyghur Publishing House has also censored more than 330 books and stopped publication of other volumes deemed "problematic." Kashgar prefectural and municipal Communist Party committees ordered local Uyghurs to submit books that allegedly promote Uyghur separatism for burning, according to Abdujelil Karkash, director of the opposition East Turkestan Information Center, based in Munich. Failure to surrender such books could bring criminal penalties, he told RFA. "Most of the Uyghur books that were burned were about science, technology, religion, history, culture, and Uyghur craftsmanship," he said in an interview. Officials have also burned copies of the Koran, he added. An official with the Xinjiang Propaganda Department denied that authorities had burned any copies of the Koran. Karkash views the May 14 book-burning-which evokes Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s-as a further effort by Chinese authorities to eliminate Uyghur influence in Xinjiang. Dilshat Rishit, a spokesman for the East Turkestan Information Center, denounced the book-burning as a violation of the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees protection of China's ethnic minorities. Local, provincial, and party officials-contacted by telephone-all declined to comment. Jerulla, the appointed vice-governor of Kashgar Prefecture, told RFA he knew nothing about the book-burning and declined further comment. A Chinese official in the Kashgar Prefecture Propaganda Department also declined to comment. A spokesman for the Xinjiang Communist Party said the party hadn�t been involved in any book-burning, adding, "It's questionable whether such an event occurred." Since Sept. 11 and the ensuing U.S.-led war on terror, the Chinese government has stepped up its "Strike Hard" campaign against separatism-notably in Moslem-majority Xinjiang. Uyghurs constitute a distinct, Turkic-speaking, Moslem minority in northwestern China and Central Asia. They declared a short-lived East Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang in the late 1940s but have remained under Beijing's control since 1949. According to a Chinese Government white paper, in 1998 Xinjiang comprised 8 million Uyghurs, 2.5 million other ethnic minorities, and 6.4 million Han Chinese-up from 300,000 Han in 1949. Most Uyghurs are poor farmers, and at least 25 percent are illiterate. The State Department's 2001 human rights report, issued in March, noted that the Chinese campaign stressing ethnic unity and condemning "splittism" and religious extremism in Xinjiang has continued. "Authorities [have] maintained tight control over 'separatist activities,' announced tightened security measures, and mounted campaigns to crack down on opposition during the year," the report said. "Possession of separatist publications or audiovisual materials is not permitted, and...has resulted in lengthy prison sentences." Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcasts news, information, and cultural programming to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia-giving them a voice as well as a means of connecting with the world and with one another. Created by the U.S. Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.