Amid China’s ongoing crackdown on terrorism and religious extremism, Reuters reports that 22 suspects received prison sentences in Xinjiang ranging from five to 16 years. Several of those sentenced were labeled “wild imams” by state media:
China has jailed almost two dozen people including “wild imams” who preach illegally in the western region of Xinjiang where the government says Islamists are waging a violent campaign for a separate state, Chinese media reported on Tuesday.
[…] As well as the imams, or Muslim religious leaders, those sentenced included religious leaders who engaged in religious activities after being sacked, as well as those who broke the law while at their posts, it said.
Others were accused of inciting ethnic hatred, using superstition to destroy the law, and picking quarrels and provoking trouble, it said.
[…] China has vowed to crack down on religious extremism, which it blames for a string of violent attacks this year in Xinjiang and elsewhere. Exiles and activists say Chinese controls on the religion and culture of the Uighur people is more a cause of the violence than well-organised militant groups. [Source]
While exiles and human rights groups point to increasingly repressive policies as the source of Xinjiang unrest, Beijing has presented violent attacks by members of the predominately Muslim Uyghur ethnicity as proof that the global jihad movement has arrived on Chinese soil. The New York Times’ coverage of the most recent mass sentencing notes that Barack Obama offered supportive comments to Chinese state media:
In written comments he provided to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua on Monday, President Obama, who is in Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting, spoke against the threat of terrorism around the world and voiced support for Beijing’s cooperation in fighting that threat.
He also offered condolences to the families of those who died in a recent attack in Yunnan Province and to victims of violence in Xinjiang. “As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the grief of these families who lost a loved one,” Xinhua quoted Mr. Obama as saying. “Terrorist groups like ETIM should not be allowed to establish a safe haven in ungoverned areas along China’s periphery,” he said, referring to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. [Source]