A Chinese court on Thursday sentenced three people to death and another to 25 years in jail over violent unrest in the Xinjiang region in which dozens were killed, state media reported.
China labeled the June 26 riots as a “violent terrorist attack,” a charge rights groups say is often used to justify the authorities’ use of force against the mostly Muslim Uighur minority, and reacted by vowing to crack down on such incidents.
The Intermediate People’s Court in Xinjiang’s Turpan Prefecture sentenced Ahmatniyaz Sidiq, Urayim Eli and Abdulla Esrapil to death for crimes including murder and taking part in a “terrorist organization,” Xinhua news agency said late on Thursday.
Sidiq was also accused of leading the group and of arson.
Another man, Akram Usman, was sentenced to 25 years in jail for his role in the group, murder and arson, Xinhua reported.
“They advocated and spread religious extremism, watched violence-inciting videos from foreign terrorist organizations, and read books on religious extremism to further conspire on terrorist activities,” Xinhua said, citing the court.
The clashes in June were the deadliest to hit the western desert region — home to about 10 million Uighurs — since 2009, when riots killed about 200 people.
Xinhua said at the time that “knife-wielding mobs” attacked police stations and other sites in Lukqun Township, Shanshan County, before officers opened fire, leaving 35 people dead.
On Thursday, the agency reported that the June attacks killed 24, including two police officers, and injured 23.
Xinjiang, a region about twice the size of Turkey, is periodically hit by clashes between members of China’s Han majority group and Uighurs.
In other news, police yesterday detained an outspoken businessman who had called for the release of a prominent lawyer arrested as part of a crackdown on anti-corruption activists, a friend said.
Wang Gongquan (王功權) was detained at his home in Beijing on suspicion of “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place,” writer Xiao Shu (笑蜀) said, adding that a Wang family member told him of the arrest.
Wang, a wealthy venture capitalist, had publicly called for Xu Zhiyong (許志永), a lawyer who had assisted other campaigners arrested for demanding that government officials disclose their assets, to be freed.
Rights groups have reported a crackdown on political activists since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) was formally appointed in March, with at least 30 said to have been detained.
Some of them have been charged with “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” after they appeared on city streets with banners calling for officials to disclose their wealth.
Corruption is a key issue in China that Xi has said threatens the ruling party.
Wang has long been an outspoken advocate for political reform, and activists said he had provided financial backing for Xu. He also started a signature campaign for the release of the lawyer, who was detained in July and has not been seen in public since.
Wang’s own arrest was confirmed by fellow activists Hu Jia (胡佳) and lawyer Teng Biao (滕彪), who said about 20 police were involved.
Reportedly a billionaire, Wang made waves in 2011 when he announced he was retiring to enjoy life with his mistress, and news of his arrest spread rapidly on Chinese social networking Web sites yesterday.