Official media have reported that 18 people have turned themselves in for their connection to violence in Xinjiang in which close to 100 people were reported killed. But the official account – like the account of the violence itself – has been contested by Uyghur rights groups abroad. The AP reports:
The Xinjiang Daily, the region’s official newspaper, reported Sunday that 18 people had since surrendered because of a publicity campaign urging local people to provide tip-offs about who was involved in the violence. It said that most of the 18 were “ordinary people,” some of whom had been instigated or coerced into taking part in the violence without knowing the reasons for it, and that because they had surrendered would be dealt with “leniently.”
But a spokesman for a Munich-based Uighur rights advocacy group said the 18 had surrendered out of fear for their lives. Amid a manhunt for the participants in the violence, armed forces encircled a corn field where the 18 Uighur farmers, the youngest of whom was 15, had retreated and were shooting in the air, said Dilxat Raxit of the World Uyghur Congress.
He said authorities took their family members and other relatives to the field and gave them loudspeakers to persuade them to give up, “telling them the government can ensure their safety after they surrender.”
Neither account could be independently verified. [Source]
Few of the surrendered suspects were diehard terrorists, and many of them were cheated or coerced into joining the attack, said Abdulkeyum Abdukhadir, an official from the Shache public security bureau.
If found guilty, the suspects who turned themselves in will get a lighter sentence, while those who are still on the loose were warned to surrender as soon as possible, he said.
On Aug. 1, the Shache government made an announcement calling for public tip-offs about the suspects’ whereabouts. [Source]
Police previously announced that 30,000 volunteers assisted in tracking down assailants in the Shache incident, and have said they want to recruit up to 100,000 public volunteers to identify and locate suspected terrorists. But as Wu Nan reports for the South China Morning Post, some local residents are skeptical of the campaign:
They fear efforts to collect information could lead to dangerous confrontations with strangers, and point to concerns about living in a community where suspicion of one’s neighbours is rife.
The chief of the municipal Public Security Bureau, Fu Zhenghua, announced late last month that the capital aimed to enlist people from across society, including cleaners, security guards and deliverymen, to act as lookouts for possible terrorist activity. The announcement came a few months after Beijing police began offering up to 40,000 yuan (HK$50,280) for tip-offs on suspected plots.
Some provinces have unveiled even bigger rewards to informants, with Yunnan offering up to 200,000 yuan and Inner Mongolia 500,000 yuan. In Shenzhen, authorities have left the amount uncapped. But some members of the public question whether such payments will be made if they were to step forward with information.
“The 40,000 yuan reward seems too good to be true,” said a bicycle repairman in Beijing’s Tuanjiehu area, who did not want to be identified. “Who can guarantee the reward won’t be an empty promise?” [Source]
Meanwhile, Xinjiang authorities announced the detention of an Internet user for spreading rumors about the incident. Reuters reports:
The official news website of the Xinjiang government said police detained a 22-year-old suspect for circumventing China’s online censorship system, known as the Great Firewall, to post a fake account of the incident on overseas websites.
“So-called reports that were seriously inconsistent with the facts emerged on overseas websites, which fabricated horrifying details and deliberately incited ethnic hatred,” the website, Tianshan.net, reported.
It said the rumour, which included graphic depictions of extreme violence by police, had been circulated by “hostile foreign forces” and had an “evil influence”.
Tianshan said police detained the suspect, a man with a Uighur name who later confessed, on Aug. 6. [Source]