Chinese security forces shot dead five ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs in the third consecutive week of fatal shootings in a restive county in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, an exile Uyghur group said Monday, accusing the authorities of a "cover-up".
The latest killing in Yingwusitang township in Yarkand (in Chinese, Shache) county, which is administered by the Silk Road city of Kashgar, occurred on Friday when police surrounded a house and gunned down five occupants who had not been suspects of any crime, according to the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress.
Dilxat Raxit, the Sweden-based spokesman for the group, accused the authorities of using excessive force in the incident, saying it was unfortunate that the killings came ahead of the Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival of Sacrifice, to be observed on Tuesday.
“Ahead of the festival, Chinese armed personnel surrounded a Uyghur house in Yarkand. They opened fire and caused the death of five Uyghurs. They used excessive force," he told RFA's Cantonese Service.
"The authorities have tried to cover up the news. They thought some suspects were inside [the house],” he said, suggesting that the five had done nothing wrong.
A staff of the police station at Yingwusitang, when contacted, said he did not know about the shooting incident.
A local motel staff said the shooting occurred after "some disruptive people escaped and they [the police] could not arrest them."
In the previous two weeks, seven Uyghurs had been shot dead by police in separate clashes in Yarkand county, underlining a trend of increasing violence in Xinjiang, where the minority Muslim Uyghurs complain of discrimination and religious controls under Beijing’s rule.
Four died after police opened fire on a group of Uyghurs in a private residence in Abu Dona Village No. 16 on Oct. 3 after suspecting them of "illegal assembly," the World Uyghur Congress said last week.
On Sept. 26, police had opened fire and killed two Uyghur residents in the same village, and two days later police fired on suspects at the Yarkand railway station, killing one Uyghur.
He said nine Uyghurs were also detained after they marched to the Yarkand county government offices on the Oct. 1 National Day holiday to protest the earlier killings.
Chinese authorities usually blame outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang on "terrorists" among Uyghurs, but rights groups and experts say Beijing exaggerates the terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against Uyghurs.
Reported by RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated by Shiny Li. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.