More Death Sentences for Riots

Chinese courts have now sentenced at least 26 people to death following deadly riots in Xinjiang.

New-Urumqi-Protests-Day-2-305.jpg Chinese riot police block off a street in downtown Urumqi, Sept. 4, 2009.

HONG KONG—A Chinese court has sentenced four more people to death for allegedly taking part in last year’s riots in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, official media reported Tuesday.

The four defendants, whose names suggest they are ethnic minority Uyghurs, were charged with “extremely serious crimes,” according to the Xinjiang Daily, and their death sentences were expected to be carried out immediately.

A fifth person was sentenced to death, but given a two-year reprieve, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on its Web site.

Such reprieves for death sentences in China are often commuted to life imprisonment.

Eight others were handed a range of jail terms including life in prison.

At least 26 death sentences have been handed down to defendants in connection with July 5 clashes in the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi, nine of which are believed to already have been carried out.

The Urumqi riots followed protests over attacks by ethnic majority Han Chinese on Uyghur workers in southern China’s Guangzhou province.

Nearly 200 people were killed in the ensuing violence, by the government's tally.

Sentences condemned

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress, called on governments around the world to press Beijing to end what he called “illegal” trials.

“[The government says it] is holding open trials for these cases, but in reality these trials are not open,” he said.

"The defendants were not given the right to find attorneys for themselves or even to defend themselves…The attorneys were state-designated lawyers,” Raxit said.

Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said she questioned the legitimacy of the trials in an often flawed Chinese judicial system.

“In China we have deep and broad concerns about due process, even in ordinary, nonsensitive cases—and these are highly sensitive cases,” she said.

Richardson questioned whether the four defendants had been granted access to the evidence presented against them and whether they had been granted all of the rights guaranteed them under Chinese law.

“Trials in China generally are politicized and this is not unique to Xinjiang, it’s not unique to Tibet, it’s not unique to high-profile critics of the government,” she said.

“I think it’s particularly acute at the moment in Xinjiang, given the nature of the unrest there and the government’s interest in trying to dissuade anyone from engaging in further public criticism of the government.”

Richardson also called on other governments to demand that the Chinese government comply with its own laws with respect to fair trials and ensure that all death penalty sentences be reviewed at the national level.

Region remains tense

The regional Xinjiang government said this month it would double its security budget in 2010 and carry out policies to encourage economic growth to alleviate tensions that led to the unrest last year.

Security remains tight in Xinjiang in the wake of the violence, with Internet and telephone services extremely limited for most of the region's 20 million people.

China in December pressed Cambodia to deport a group of 20 Uyghurs, including two young children, who fled after the July riots and sought asylum with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia said it expelled the Uyghurs because they had illegally entered the country.

It has since been sharply criticized by Washington, which said the deportations would harm bilateral ties with the United States, though they may have strengthened relations with Beijing.

Uyghurs, a distinct and mostly Muslim ethnic group indigenous to Xinjiang, have long complained of religious, political, and cultural oppression under Chinese rule, and tensions have simmered there for years.

Xinjiang has been plagued in recent years by bombings, attacks, and riots that Chinese authorities blame on Uyghur separatists.

Original reporting and translation by Mamatjan Juma for RFA’s Uyghur service. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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Jan 27, 2010 05:48 AM

The silence of the world is mutual endorsement of the crime against the Uighur nation.

Jan 26, 2010 09:10 AM

China is one of the most cruel evil countries. North Korea, VN,Iran and Burma always make fear to the world.

Jan 27, 2010 12:47 AM

Chinese Communist ruled the country by unrighteous ways, by plundering other people land, culture, natural resources, by murdering, by atrocity. It's very very unlucky for the people in Tibet, Xinjaing that the inhumane Chinese regime come into existence to rob and steal all their rights as well as detain and kill them (Tibet, Uighur) like the animals. The face of communist leaders more worse than hell. Hunsen puppet government of Hanoi pacified Beijing so as to get aids to be kept in their pocket only. This Hunsen regime existed only to be priceless slave of Vietnamese. No doubt that Hunsen is a barbarian.

Jan 27, 2010 06:07 PM

China has the rights to punish those uyghur mobsters.IF they espcape from punishment,the situation will worsen.

Jan 28, 2010 05:28 AM

Uighur nation is living under the darkest era in history. Crime against humanity against Uighurs is going on right now. The sufferings of Uighurs are unprecedented in human history.

Jan 27, 2010 05:12 AM

Stop crime against humanity against Uighur people! Stop ethnic cleansing against Uighur people!!