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.