Aug 14, 2013

East Turkestan: Uyghurs Sentenced To Death On Questionable Charges

Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have sentenced two Uyghur men to death and gave life sentences to three others on unjustified claims of terrorism.

Below is an article published by The New York Times:

A court in restive western China on Monday [12 August 2013] sentenced two members of the Uighur ethnic minority to death and gave prison sentences to three others for what the authorities called a “terror attack” that killed 15 people, state news media reported.

The court in Kashgar, in the Xinjiang region, said the charges against the five men included committing intentional homicide, making illegal explosives, and organizing and leading a “terror group,” said Tianshan, the official regional news Web site.

The Chinese government has begun a drive to reinforce control in Xinjiang after a succession of deadly confrontations pitting the authorities against members of the Uighur population. Uighurs are a largely Muslim, Turkic-speaking group, and many resent Communist Party controls and the growing presence of Han Chinese people in Xinjiang.

The bloodshed that brought the convictions broke out in April in a village near the historic bazaar town of Kashgar. At the time, state news media called the perpetrators “gangsters.” The court gave a different account, describing the accused as militants inspired by extremist literature and broadcasts from abroad.

The five defendants and other accomplices “printed a large number of reactionary books promoting religious extremism and violent terror, and purchased supplies to undertake training in capabilities to undertake terror,” said the Tianshan report, citing the court verdict.

In April, community watch workers came across a room used by the defendants and their associates and reported their suspicions to the police. Fearing exposure, the men used machetes and axes to attack the community workers and police officers.

Three community workers were killed in the attack, and nine police officers and community workers later died after being herded into a house that the militants then burned down, the report said. Three other people were killed as the militants attacked shops and the police, the report said. Six militants were killed during the confrontation, and another died after being captured.

International human rights groups and advocates of Uighur self-determination say the Chinese government denies Uighurs opportunities for peacefully expressing their demands, and mischaracterizes local outbursts of violence as acts of concerted terrorism orchestrated from abroad.

In June, a confrontation at a police station and government offices in Turpan Prefecture, in Xinjiang, left 35 dead, including 11 rioters shot by the police. That month, state news media also reported on a confrontation in Hotan Prefecture, but details have been scant and contradictory.

The prison sentences announced on Monday [12 August 2013] ranged from nine years to life. The report said the defendants had confessed, but it did not say whether any would appeal. China’s Communist Party-run courts rarely find in favor of defendants or overturn convictions on appeal.

The death penalties and accusations of concerted terrorism are in keeping with the unyielding stance that the Chinese government has taken in Xinjiang. Tensions in Xinjiang have remained high since July 2009, when Uighur rioters attacked Han Chinese residents in the regional capital, Urumqi, leaving almost 200 people dead.

“We must be resolute to win this hard battle against terror and for stability,” Zhang Chunxian, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, said in a speech published last week.

Advocates of Uighur self-rule say the Chinese government’s security campaign and controls on religious life in Xinjiang are exacerbating ethnic tensions, rather than relieving them.