“A court in restive western China on Monday sentenced two members of the Uyghur ethnic minority to death and gave prison sentences to three others for what authorities called a ‘terror attack’ that killed 15 people,” Chris Buckley reports for the New York Times:
The court in Kashgar, Xinjiang region, said the charges against the five men included intentional homicide, making illegal explosives, and organizing and leading a “terror group,” said Tianshan, the official regional news Web site. The verdicts come during a drive by the Chinese government to reinforce control in Xinjiang after a succession of deadly confrontations pitting authorities against members of the Uyghur population. Uyghurs are a largely Muslim, Turkic-speaking group, and many resent Communist Party controls and the growing presence of Han Chinese people in Xinjiang.
“International human rights groups and advocates of Uyghur self-determination say the Chinese government denies Uyghur s opportunities for peacefully expressing their demands, and mischaracterizes local outbursts of violence as acts of concerted terrorism orchestrated from abroad. Buckley notes. “Advocates of Uyghur self-rule say the Chinese government’s security campaign and controls on religious life in Xinjiang are exacerbating ethnic tensions, rather than relieving them.”
The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”
Conflict between local police and Uyghur Muslims erupted on the eve of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan. According to reports by RFA [zh], RFI [zh], and Apple Daily [zh], on the evening of August 7 the police arrested four people in Ayikulezhen, Aksu for “engaging in illegal religious activities”. A crowd gathered at the police station, with some throwing stones and bricks. At 1:20 a.m. on August 8, the police opened fire on the crowd, killing at least three and injuring 20. 12 police officers were also injured.
Xinjiang has had a markedly violent year. At least 21 people died in clashes with the police outside the far western city of Kashgar in late April. In June, 35 died in riots in Turpan, and another 24 in Hotan just days later.
Tension between the majority Uyghur population and the Han Chinese lead to widespread riots in the summer of 2009. Some of the same grievances then spur protests and violence today, including policies which curb religious expression.