China sentences six more to death over riots

Friday, October 16, 2009

China has sentenced six more people to death for murders committed during July riots in far northwestern Xinjiang region. This brings the number of people facing the death penalty for their involvement in the riots to nine.

Xinjiang region, China
Image: Joowwww.

China saw its worst ethnic violence in decades, when riots erupted in Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, in July. Muslim Uighurs attacked members of China's dominant Han ethnic group. The Han Chinese retaliated, two days later, by attacking Uighurs. Officials say nearly 200 people were killed in the riots.

The Chinese media has said the Urumqi court gave three of the six condemned men two-year reprieves — a sentence that is often commuted to life in prison.

Five of the death sentences went to Uighurs, who were convicted of beating people to death during the initial riots on July 5. The official Xinhua news agency says another man, who appears to be Han Chinese based on his name, was convicted of beating a Uighur man to death during vigilante attacks, two days later.

An employee at the Xinjiang government's news center, who did not give her name, said that the sentencing was not over. She said the official reports Thursday only cover the verdict for cases that were decided that day. She added that there will still be verdicts for other cases, but gave no details as to how many cases remain to be tried, how serious they are or when the verdicts would be reached.

On Monday, six Uighur defendants were sentenced to death by the same court. Those sentences were the first to be handed down in the trials of scores of suspects arrested during and after the riots.

Last week, a Chinese court in Guangdong province sentenced one man to death and another to life in prison for their part in a toy factory brawl in June. Two ethnic Uighurs were killed in that violence, which sparked the rioting in Xinjiang.

The Turkic-speaking Uighurs have long complained of discrimination by the Han and say the government severely restricts their Muslim religious practices. The Chinese government says there is no discrimination and that Uighurs, like other ethnic minority groups, receive benefits the Han majority does not.