China has executed eight people in the north-western region of Xinjiang, a region vulnerable to interethnic violence in China. The eight people were convicted of terrorism, according to a report of the state-run Xinhua news agency. Three of them were found to be involved in an attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in October.
China is deploying tough methods to combat terrorism in Xinjiang region. Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region borders Russia, Pakistan and several Central Asian nations and is the traditional home to Muslim Uighur population. The population has now become a minority in the region, with the recent influx of the ethnic Han Chinese. There is a growing sense among Uighurs that they are getting cut out of the region’s economic boom.
The authorities in Xinjiang reported that the three executed a terrorist attack on October 28 when a vehicle drove through security barriers into a crowd on the square in the capital. Crashing into a pedestrian bridge and bursting into flames, the incident killed five, including three in the vehicle and wounded around 40 people. The other five, as reported by Xinhua, had been found guilty of crimes including murder of government officials, setting up a terrorist organization and the illegal manufacturing of explosives.
The report listed their names and charges, but did not mention when or how they were put to death, where they were held, in what conditions and whether they were offered legal counsel. The names spelled out in the report indicate that they were Uighur, a Turkic-speaking people who mostly follow Sunni Islam. Their crimes included “organizing, leading and participating in a terror organization; intentional homicide; arson; illegally making, storing and transporting explosives; and jeopardizing public safety by dangerous means,” the Tianshan report said.
Maya Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, says rights groups and foreign journalists have effectively been blocked from looking into the matter. “We are just as much in the dark about these individuals,” she says. “We have almost no independent information, except what the state press has released.”
The courts in China are controlled by the ruling Communist Party and have an almost 100% conviction rate, with frequent imposition of death sentences for terror offences.
The exile groups have pointed to cultural oppression and intrusive security measures imposed by the government as the main reasons for tensions in the region. However, Beijing emphasizes ethnic harmony in Xinjiang and says the government has helped improve living standards and developed the economy.
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