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Nine executed over ethnic Uighur unrest in Xinjiang

3 min

China said on Monday that it had executed nine people in connection with deadly ethnic unrest that erupted in the Xinjiang region in July. Authorities convicted 21 defendants in October.


AFP - China said Monday it had put to death nine people over deadly ethnic unrest in its far-western Xinjiang region, the first executions since the violence erupted in July.

Authorities convicted 21 defendants in October -- nine were sentenced to death, three were given the death penalty with a two-year reprieve, a sentence usually commuted to life in jail and the rest were handed various prison terms.

"The first group of nine people who were sentenced to death recently have already been executed in succession, with the approval of the Supreme Court," Hou Hanmin, spokeswoman for the Xinjiang government, told AFP.

It was not clear when the executions took place.

According to previous statements by the Xinjiang government, this first group consisted of eight members of the mainly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority and one majority Han Chinese.

The violence erupted on July 5, pitting Uighurs against members of China's dominant Han group, leaving 197 dead and more than 1,600 injured, according to an official toll.

Han vigilantes then went on a rampage against Uighurs two days later, but the exact number of casualties from that day has never been divulged.

The 21 defendants were convicted of crimes such as murder, intentional damage to property, arson, and robbery.

Han Junbo, the Han Chinese man who was sentenced to death, was convicted of killing a Uighur man, according to a previous Xinjiang government statement.

One of the Uighurs given the death penalty was found guilty of beating two people to death with another defendant, as well as stealing people's possessions, including mobile phones and bracelets.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, condemned the executions, saying the Uighurs who were put to death had not been able to meet with their families.

"We regret that the United States and Europe have not adopted effective measures towards China regarding the death penalty issue," he told AFP by telephone from Sweden.

"If they don't continue to put pressure on China, there will definitely be even more Uighurs executed."

He called on US President Barack Obama, who is due to arrive in China on Sunday for an official visit, to raise the issue with the government.

"We hope that US President Obama will clearly and openly tell the Chinese government to respect the rights of the Uighurs, and to stop using the death penalty method to repress Uighurs," he said.

China's roughly eight million Turkic-speaking Uighurs have long complained of religious, political and cultural oppression by Chinese authorities -- which China denies -- and tensions have simmered in the Xinjiang region for years.

China says it faces a serious terrorist threat from Muslim separatists in Xinjiang, but rights groups have accused Beijing of exaggerating the threat in order to justify very tight controls in the vast region bordering Central Asia.

Authorities have blamed the Xinjiang unrest in July on "ethnic separatists", without providing any evidence.

But Uighurs say the violence was triggered when police cracked down on peaceful protests over a brawl in late June at a factory in southern China that state media said left two Uighurs dead.

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