Four Uyghurs have been sentenced to death in connection with what Beijing called deadly attacks in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, according to state media.
The official Xinjiang Daily said the men had received sentences from China’s Supreme Court in recent days.
The People’s Highest Court must approve death sentences as the last step before executions can be carried out.
Exiled Uyghur leader and activist Rebiya Kadeer called the sentences a breach of international law.
“We are not sure how accurate the details of the cases are. The Chinese media have reported very little about the [incidents] … The lack of transparency in the cases is enough to prove that the charges are in violation of the international standard of law,” she said.
Two of the men, Tuerhong Tuerdi and Abudula Tueryacun, were sentenced for their alleged involvement in an Aug. 19 bomb attack in Xinjiang’s western Aksu city.
The incident left eight people dead, including two of the bombers, and 15 wounded after a man riding a three-wheeled vehicle threw explosives at a group of uniformed patrolmen. Four Uyghurs were arrested shortly after the attack.
The other two Uyghurs sentenced to death were Akeneyacun Nuer, convicted of stabbing a policeman to death in Khotan last November, and Abudukaiyoumu Abudureheman, convicted of killing two people in Xinjiang's eastern Hami area last September with a homemade gun, the Xinjiang Daily said.
Acts of terrorism?
State media characterized the cases as acts of terrorism and unrelated to longstanding ethnic tensions between Uyghurs and Han Chinese in the region.
”The occurrence of these cases of terrorist violence is not an ethnic issue nor a religious matter. They harm the national interest and harm the mutual interests of all ethnic groups,” the newspaper said.
But Kadeer said attacks like those allegedly committed by the four men will continue to occur until Beijing addresses the underlying source of tension in the region.
“Violent attacks … [are] a serious political problem and affect stability, but China must accept that the incidents are consequence of policies long-implemented in the region,” she said.
Kadeer said the Chinese government’s use of executions and other forms of pressure against the Uyghur community is nothing new.
“These methods have been used for more than 50 years and have been repeatedly shown to be unsuccessful. China continuing to execute Uyghurs will continue to spread the seed of hatred between the people.”
“We call on China to stop avoiding the root of the problem. Sit down to a dialogue with representatives of the Uyghur people, ask their demands, and discuss the issue.”
Life under Chinese rule
Millions of Uyghurs—a distinct, Turkic minority who are predominantly Muslim—populate Central Asia and Xinjiang.
Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness despite China's ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.
Those frustrations erupted in July 2009 in deadly riots that left nearly 200 people dead, by the Chinese government's tally.
At least 26 people, mostly Uyghurs, were sentenced to death in the aftermath of the riots, many of whom have been executed, according to state media.
China is believed to execute more people each year than the rest of the world’s countries combined, although the government does not publish official figures.
Rights groups say Beijing may execute as many as several thousand prisoners annually.
Chinese authorities blame Uyghur separatists for a series of deadly attacks in recent years and accuse one group in particular of maintaining ties to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Reported and translated by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.