SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Police in Shanghai have arrested 10 Turkish nationals suspected of supplying fake passports to ethnic Uighurs from China’s far-western region of Xinjiang who were described as terrorist suspects by state media.
Hundreds of people have been killed in resource-rich Xinjiang, strategically located on the borders of central Asia, in violence in the past two years between the Muslim Uighur people and ethnic majority Han Chinese.
Another 11 people, including nine Xinjiang “terror suspects”, were also detained in November while trying to leave China after paying 60,000 yuan ($9,700) for altered Turkish passports, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not elaborate on the case but told a news conference on Wednesday the report was “extremely accurate”.
“Fighting illegal immigration is a common desire of the international community and is the Chinese government’s consistent position as well as what (the government) advocates. We are willing to cooperate closely with the international community of this issue,” he said.
In Ankara a Turkish foreign ministry official told Reuters 10 Turkish citizens, eight male and two female, were detained in Shanghai on Nov. 17 on allegations of facilitating the illegal passage of people abroad.
They were sent to court on Dec. 24 with the request that they be remanded in custody, two charged with ‘organizing for people to travel abroad illegally’ and the other eight with accused of involvement in the sale of travel documents.
The 10 are being held in Shanghai and their court process is not expected to begin until late February, the official said. Turkey’s consulate officials in Shanghai have visited them in custody and are following the case, she added.
The Chinese newspaper said terrorism-related audio and video materials were found among the suspects and that some had been bound for Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In October, Malaysian authorities detained 155 Uighurs in Kuala Lumpur who were carrying Turkish passports suspected to be fake.
Separately, authorities in Xinjiang announced that people buying fireworks for Chinese New Year would have to register using their ID cards, the China Daily reported late on Tuesday.
The move was meant to prevent terrorists obtaining raw materials to make explosives, it quoted Li Jianghui, an official with Xinjiang’s work safety department, as saying.
Fireworks shops must record the variety and number of products bought by each customer, he said.
Islamist militants from Xinjiang have been blamed by the government for attacks elsewhere in China, including Beijing.
A group of “mobsters” on Monday tried to set off an explosive device in a business district of Xinjiang. Police shot dead six of them, the local government said.
($1 = 6.2 yuan)
Reporting by John Ruwitch; Additional reporting by Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Ralph Boulton