BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang have jailed nine more people for up to 14 years for terror-related offences at a public sentencing in front of more than 3,000 people, state media said on Thursday.
China has been toughening its response after a spate of bloody incidents nationwide centered on Xinjiang, the traditional home of the Muslim Uighurs.
China has blamed attacks on Islamist separatists in the region, who, it says, want to establish an independent state there called East Turkestan.
The government of Qapqal, close to the border with Kazakhstan, also announced arrest warrants for a further 25 people and the detention of 14 others, the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said on its website.
The crimes they have been found guilty of or are suspected of include calling for holy war, attending overseas terror training camps, separatism and fanning ethnic hatred, the newspaper said, citing the Qapqal government.
It did not identify their ethnicities, though the region is also home to a sizeable Kazakh minority, another Muslim people.
The announcement appeared to take place on a sports field, judging by a picture posted by the newspaper. The attendees included relatives and neighbors of those sentenced and religious figures, it added.
“Clearly recognize who is our enemy and who are brothers and sisters,” Li Wei, the Communist Party deputy chief of Qapqal county, was quoted as saying. “Resolutely smash the evil plots of the enemy.”
State media last month reported on another public mass sentencing, reminiscent of China’s revolutionary era rallies, attracting a crowd of 7,000 at a sports stadium in Yining city in the northern prefecture of Yili. [ID:nL3N0OE10F]
Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s own repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest, a claim Beijing denies.
Around 200 people have died in unrest in Xinjiang in the past year or so, the government says, including 13 people shot dead by police in a weekend attack on a police station.
At least 380 people have been detained in the last month in a sweeping crackdown on violence in Xinjiang. [ID:nL4N0P4150]
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jeremy Laurence