China lays first charges over Xinjiang riots

BEIJING Sat Sep 26, 2009 7:10am EDT

Paramilitary police in riot gear block a road at the centre of Urumqi in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region September 3, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

Paramilitary police in riot gear block a road at the centre of Urumqi in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region September 3, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China announced the first charges to be laid in connection with violent unrest in July that shook China's northwest region of Xinjiang, home to Muslim Uighurs.

Twenty-one people had been charged with murder, arson, robbery and damaging property during ethnic riots that erupted in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, on July 5, Xinhua news agency said.

A total of 197 people were killed over several days of rioting in the ethnically divided city, most from the Han Chinese majority.

Of the eight "leading" suspects identified in the report, six appear to be Uighurs. Investigations continue.

Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur leader accused by China of inciting the violence, said the "shadow of communism" could fall on democratic Taiwan, China's neighbor and diplomatic rival, which refused her permission to visit.

Citing security concerns, Taiwan's interior minister told parliament that Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, could not accept an invitation backed by the island's anti-China opposition to visit in December for a series of speeches.

"I am very concerned about the future of Taiwan," the exiled, U.S.-based Kadeer said in a statement. "I fear that the shadow of communism may fall on the people of Taiwan.

China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to the island. Beijing has threatened to use force, if necessary, to bring Taiwan under its rule.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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