Nine people have been executed for taking part in the July ethnic rioting in the restive province of Xinjiang that left nearly 200 people dead, a state news agency reported Monday.
According to the report, the cases had all been reviewed by the Supreme People’s Court, a legally mandated step in death penalty cases in China. The report by the China News Service did not give any further details of the executions. When they occurred, or the ethnicty of those executed, are unclear. They were simply referred to as “criminals.”
The New York Times provides a background:
The rioting that broke out in the regional capital of Urumqi on July 5 was largely carried out by Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people who mostly follow Sunni Islam and who are the biggest ethnic group in the vast Central Asian border region of Xinjiang. Many Uighurs resent what they call discrimination by Han, the dominant ethnicity in China; the Chinese government says that most of the 197 people killed and 1,600 people injured on July 5 were Han.
The rioting was the deadliest ethnic clash in China in decades, and brought into question the viability of China’s policies toward the Uighurs in Xinjiang. The Chinese government blamed Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur exile and former businesswoman living in a suburb of Washington, for the violence. Officials said Ms. Kadeer had urged Uighurs to take action, but Ms. Kadeer has denied the accusations.
[...] Human rights advocates have criticized the government’s handling of the aftermath of the rioting. In late October, Human Rights Watch released a report that said 43 Uighur men had disappeared after being seized by security forces. The number was probably higher, the report said, but investigators for Human Rights Watch could conclusively document only 43 cases while working secretly in the region. The cases were “serious violations of international human rights law,” the report said.
The rounding up of hundreds of men in Xinjiang and the recent executions there followed the pattern set by the government after ethnic rioting and protests by Tibetans in the spring of 2008. Tibetan exile groups said four Tibetans were executed on Oct. 20 in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, for their roles in the Tibetan uprising. The government says at least 19 people were killed during the outbreak of violence in Lhasa, most of them ethnic Han. [...]
Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have, over recent weeks, vowing to wipe out lawlessness and “change the face” of the public security situation there. Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi, was the site of two deadly ethnic clashes this year.
While such ethnic tensions in Xinjiang have drawn widespread international concern, they have not posed any major threats to national stability. Calls from human rights groups and intellectuals for greater openness and democracy have so far failed to gain much popular traction, Reuters observes.
Human Rights Watch issued an open letter today urging President Obama, on his first official trip to China, to raise human rights in the country. The letter highlights three issues:
“Freedom of expression, including internet censorship and the imprisonment of peaceful government critics; Rule of law, especially the disbarment of China’s fledgling “rights protection” lawyers; Tibet and Xinjiang, particularly the executions of Tibetans alleged to have been involved in the March 2008 protests there, and of Uighurs for involvement in the July 2009 protests in that region.”