BEIJING, July 5 The Chinese government is
silencing voices of dissent in the restive far western region of
Xinjiang by jailing ethnic Uighurs who speak out two years after
deadly riots in the regional capital, Amnesty International said
In July 2009, regional capital Urumqi was rocked by ethnic
violence between majority Han Chinese and minority Uighurs that
killed nearly 200 people. Many of the Turkic-speaking Muslim
Uighurs, who call Xinjiang home, chafe at Beijing's rule.
Since then, China has executed nine people it blamed for
instigating the riots, detained and prosecuted hundreds of
others and ramped up spending on security, according to state
media and overseas rights groups.
Last month, Kazakhstan extradited a Uighur schoolteacher who
had been granted U.N. refugee status to face charges of
terrorism in China, brushing off concerns he could be tortured
and that the charges against him were trumped up.
"The government is not only still muzzling people who speak
out about July 2009, it is using its influence outside its
borders to shut them up," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty's director
for the Asia-Pacific.
"The general trend towards repression that we see all over
China is particularly pronounced in Xinjiang, where the Uighur
population has become a minority in its own homeland."
China is in the midst of a sweeping campaign against rights
activists, following calls on-line for Arab-style "Jasmine
protests" in China which have spooked Beijing.
Other Uighurs have been jailed for speaking to foreign
reporters about the events two years ago, or for discussing the
unrest on Uighur websites.
"Attacking every Uighur who speaks freely is no way to
resolve the underlying grievances that led to the 2009 protests
in the first place," Zarifi added.
"The Chinese government has to listen to the grievances of
the Uighur community and address their demands to have their
rights respected and their culture protected."
Since the unrest, China has turned its attention to boosting
development in Xinjiang and providing greater job opportunities,
especially for Uighurs, to try and address some of the root
causes of the violence.
But the government has also installed some 40,000
surveillance cameras in Urumqi and increased by more than half
this year's regional security budget, to 2.89 billion yuan ($447
million), according to state media.
Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily wrote in its
overseas edition on Tuesday that Xinjiang was welcoming a period
of "unlimited prosperity", lauding efforts to boost development
Xinjiang is strategically vital to China and Beijing has
shown no sign of loosening its grip.
A vast swathe of territory, accounting for one-sixth of
China's land mass, Xinjiang holds rich oil, gas and coal
deposits and borders Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Central
($1 = 6.463 yuan)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sugita Katyal)