CHINA has begun sentencing 20 more ethnic Uighurs – some to death – for their part in riots which left 197 people dead in the remote western city of Urumqi on July 5, as the second batch of trials of more than 1200 people arrested as a result of the carnage began today, with at least one man sent for execution.
In early December five people were sentenced to death and a further eight given prison terms, bringing to 17 sent to be executed in trials of the first two groups of people from the bloody unrest. Nine have been executed so far.
The province of Xinjiang, of which Urumqi is the capital, remains locked down with internet, text messaging and international phone access cut off.
The Australian has learned that three new trials were held today with other accused expected to be given their final sentences in coming days.
On July 5, long simmering tensions between Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighurs and the majority ethnic Han erupted as members of the minority group attacked and killed dozens of Chinese, sparking citywide violence that lasted several days in which thousands were injured along with the casualty count.
The unprecedented events saw a massive lockdown of the city and others parts of Xinjiang province where Uighurs account for about 40 per cent of the 22 million population.
The military and police presence in Urumqi has been reduced in the past few months but machine-gun-toting groups of uniformed militia regularly patrol the streets in the Uighur sector south of the Urumqi business district.
Nineteen-year-old Uighur Mehmet Maheti was sentenced to death yesterday after being found guilty of two murders and robbery. He has five days to decide whether to appeal or not.
Maheti was accused beating 41-year-old Han businessman Yang Quanhong to death on the night of July 5 – leaving a widow, his seventy-year-old parents and a son born at the end of July.
“My husband didn’t have a chance to have a single look at his son,” Mr Yang’s widow Luan Xingyan Yang told The Australian.
“He was hoping for a child for years, and got me pregnant when he was not young. It’s a feeling nobody else can experience.
“We were driving on street the evening of July 5, they dragged me and my husband out of our car and started beating him. I ran away back home for help, and they stole my mobile too.
“I called my mobile, and got through at around 2am the next day. Maheti picked up my call and said ‘we beat your husband dead, you come here’.”
Ms Luan said that during the trial Maheti showed no regret. He said he beat Yang but didn’t beat at fatal parts of his body.
“He showed no sign of regret, nor did he apologise as have some others at previous trials,” Ms Luan said.
But overseas Uighur groups have claimed that since an initial seven-week clampdown, dozens of Uighurs have “disappeared” and other have been regularly harassed by authorities and rounded up in mass detentions. Police announced on December 4 they had arrested a further 94 people as part of a “strike hard” campaign started in November that has so far netted an extra 382 in custody.
Xinjiang Information Office Director General Hou Hanmin said that about 825 people were arrested between the start of the riots and the end of August.
“The trials have been open to family and the media and have been according to the law,” Ms Hou told The Australian.
But journalists in Urumqi who spoke on condition on anonymity said that they had been given less than a day’s notice of the trials and warned by the government not to write detailed reports or conduct their own investigations into the murders or the accused.
Yet almost six months since the violence, it remains unclear how quickly the trials of the remaining detainees will progress through China’s opaque legal system.
The fresh trials are set to begin only days after Cambodia deported 20 Uighur asylum-seekers to China as the emerging economic superpower unveiled $1 billion in development aid to the impoverished south-east Asian nation. China has denied the money is linked to the return of the Uighurs.
BEIJING — A Chinese court has handed down death sentences for five people convicted of participating in the ethnic violence in July that killed nearly 200 people in the far western region of Xinjiang, the authorities there announced Thursday.
The sentences, after a series of trials this week, bring to 22 the number of people given the death penalty since trials began in September. The court, in the regional capital, Urumqi, gave five other people suspended death sentences, which are often equivalent to life in prison.
Nine of those sentenced have already been executed, according to the state media.
The sentences were announced by the Xinjiang regional government and distributed to news outlets.
In recent months, public security officials have detained more than 800 people who they say played a role in rioting that pitted the region’s Han Chinese majority against the Turkic-speaking Uighurs. Officials say more than 1,600 people were wounded during the three days of unrest, which deeply unnerved the ruling Communist Party.
Those convicted in trials on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the statement, were guilty of “extremely serious crimes.” It described several defendants, all with Uighur names, who attacked Han residents as they drove or bicycled through the city, bludgeoning and stoning them.
Most of the dead were Han, although a small number of Uighurs were killed during retaliatory violence in the days that followed.
In addition to those given death sentences this week, eight others were given life imprisonment and four others were sentenced to 10 or more years in prison.
Uighur exile groups and rights advocates have criticized the judicial proceedings as lacking transparency. They also say that scores of Uighurs have been held incommunicado and without legal representation.
In recent weeks the authorities have detained 94 additional people whom they describe as fugitives. Not included in that number are the 20 Uighurs repatriated to China last week after seeking political asylum in Cambodia. Those Uighurs, including three children, told the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that they feared long prison terms or the death penalty if they returned.
Two days after they were forcibly sent home, China signed 14 business deals with the Cambodian government worth about $1 billion.
Citing “official sources,” an editorial published Thursday in China Daily, the state-run English-language newspaper, described seven of the Uighurs as fugitives. It criticized the United States for calling them political refugees and for suggesting that they would face peril if they were returned to China.
“Based on the professionalism of past judicial hearings on the July 5 massacre in Urumqi, it gives us confidence that the 20 members of the Uighur minority group just extradited from Cambodia would not be mistreated,” it said.
Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting.
BEIJING (AP) — China has sentenced five more people to death for crimes committed during riots in the western region of Xinjiang in July in country’s worst ethnic violence in decades.
The Xinjiang government said five were convicted of ”extremely serious crimes” and sentenced in separate trials Tuesday and Wednesday in the regional capital of Urumqi. A faxed statement Thursday didn’t specify the crimes or give details.
Five others were also sentenced this week to death, but with two-year reprieves — a penalty usually commuted to life in prison. Based on their names, all those given death or suspended death sentences this week appeared to be ethnically Uighur.
Nine people have already been executed.
Hundreds were rounded up after the riots that saw Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic group linguistically and culturally distinct from China’s Han majority, attacking Hans on the streets of Urumqi on July 5. Uighurs were targeted in revenge attacks two days later. Nearly 200 people, mostly Hans, were killed.
In all, 22 people were convicted of riot-related crimes in five trials this week, the statement said. Eight were sentenced to life imprisonment and four to 10 years or more in jail.
Many Uighurs resent Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, their traditional homeland, and the region has long been wracked by ethnic tensions that occasionally break out into acts of violence. China says it respects minority rights and has spent billions on boosting living standards and economies in minority areas such as Xinjiang.
China blames the rioting on overseas-based groups agitating for broader rights for Uighurs in Xinjiang. Five months after the violence, Xinjiang remains smothered in heavy security, with Internet access cut and international direct dialing calls blocked.
Overseas Uighur groups deny having a hand in the violence and say the trials of riot suspects are politically biased. They say judges have been ordered to issue death sentences before trial and suspects tortured into giving incriminating testimony.