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Six more to die over China riots
Latest convictions bring to 12 the number of executions ordered over riots in Urumqi.
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2009 05:53 GMT

The July riots in Urumqi were Chinese worst outbreak of ethnic unrest in decades [AFP]

A court in the western Chinese city of Urumqi has sentenced another six people to death over July's deadly ethnic riots in the city.

The convictions bring to 12 the number facing execution over the unrest, after six other defendants were sentenced to death on Monday.

Three others were given sentences of life in jail for their role in the July 5 unrest, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

According to the government almost 200 people were killed in the riots, which pitted members of Xinjiang's indigenous ethnic Uighur community against ethnic Han Chinese, the country's dominant ethnic group.

The rioting was the worst outbreak of ethnic unrest seen in China in decades.

Officials said most of those killed were ethnic Han.

Xinjiang and the Uighurs


Xinjiang is officially an autonomous region but in practice it is tightly controlled by Beijing. It is sparsely populated but has large reserves of oil, gas and minerals.

 The region's Turkic speaking Uighur population number around eight million.

 Uighurs say they face repression on a range of fronts, including bans on the teaching of their language.

 Uighur separatists have staged series of low-level attacks since early 1990s.

 China says Uighur separatists are terrorists and linked to al-Qaeda.

The clashes broke out following an initially peaceful protest in Urumqi on July 5 by Uighurs over a brawl at a factory in southern in China in which two Uighurs were killed.

After police broke up that demonstration, Uighur protesters began attacking ethnic Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in China.

Two days later, ethnic Han rioters carried out revenge attacks in Uighur neighborhoods of the city as security forces struggled to restore order.

'Separatist plot'

Xinhua did not provide ethnicities for the six sentenced to death on Thursday although, as with Monday's sentences, all appeared to have Uighur names.
 
The Chinese government has said the unrest was part of a separatist plot orchestrated by exiled Uighur leaders, who it has labeled "terrorists" although it has given no evidence to support its allegations.

But Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the World Uighur Congress, has denied any role in the protest which she said were a spontaneous response to years of repression by Chinese authorities

Reacting to the earlier convictions Kadeer, who was herself jailed in China for several years before being released into exile, said on Tuesday that executing Uighurs would only inflame ethnic tensions further.

Speaking on a visit to New Zealand she said sentencing protesters to death would not lead to peace and stability in the region.

Source:
Agencies
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