Chinese courts in Xinjiang province have sentenced 20 people to jail, some for life, on charges of separatism and for plotting violent acts against the state. From Reuters:
The courts in Kashgar and Bayingol said the 20 – all ethnic Uighurs judging by their names – had had their “thoughts poisoned by religious extremism”, and used cell phones and DVDs “to spread Muslim religious propaganda”, the Xinjiang government said on its official news website (www.ts.cn).
Some of them bought weapons to kill policemen as part of their jihad and spread propaganda related to the banned East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the report said, a group which China says wages a violent campaign for a separate state.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, said the 20 were actually guilty of no more than listening to the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and using the internet to discuss the importance of religious and cultural freedom.
The news comes amid heightened tension in the province, as one or more Uyghurs allegedly carried out an attack on Han Chinese in Korla earlier this month. Chris Buckley of The New York Times has more on today’s rulings in Kashgar and Bayingol:
The Chinese-language report did not describe the ethnicity of the people convicted or their genders. But their distinctive names and the separatist accusations left little doubt that they are Uighur, a mainly Muslim ethnic group with a Turkic language and culture that sets them apart from China’s Han majority. And details in the report offered a picture of volatile resentment among Uighur men drawn to militancy spread over the Internet.
“It’s not clear what is being alleged against these people beyond being members of a clandestine organization,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher based in Hong Kong for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group with headquarters in New York.
“China has for a long time conflated religious activities taking place outside of state control with extremism,” said Mr. Bequelin, who closely follows developments in Xinjiang. “There’s been so many unsupported accusations by the Chinese government about extremist Islamic activities and terrorist activities in Xinjiang that it makes its difficult to have faith in these kinds of announcements.”