Last week, Chinese officials used a public event in the country’s northwest to sentence 55 people on terrorism and other charges. The official Xinhua news agency said 7,000 people witnessed the mass sentencing at a sports center in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. At least three people were sentenced to death. Others were jailed for murder, separatism, and organizing or taking part in terror groups.
At the event, police announced that another 65 people were arrested on similar charges.
Li Minghui is the Deputy Communist Party Chief in Xinjiang’s Yili prefecture. He said the public sentencing showed China’s seriousness against what it calls “the three evils.” The three are terrorism, separatism and extremism.
The central government has announced a year-long campaign to secure the area. The announcement came after an attack last month in the city of Urumqi. Forty-three people were killed and more 90 others injured in the violence.
It was the latest in a series of attacks in Xinjiang, which is home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority group. Many Uighurs in China often criticize religious and cultural discrimination. The government has promised to crush what it calls the “low-level revolution.”
Following the Urumqi attack, Chinese officials increased their policing of major roads in Xinjiang. In late May, officials seized 1.8 metric tons of bomb-making materials in the Hotan area of southern Xinjiang.
Officials say the Hotan suspects planned to fill vehicles with bombs and explode them as they drove them through crowds of people. This was the same method used in the Urumqi attack.
Exiled Uighur groups have said that the campaign will only further endanger Uighur rights and could worsen the situation.
Twenty-five years have passed since Chinese officials used force to crush protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. One protest leader, Wu’er Kaixi, now lives in exile in Taipei. Wu’er Kaixi is an ethnic Uighur. He spoke to VOA about the unrest in Xinjiang.
“It’s a very sad situation in Xinjiang these days in my home country. Those are terrorist attacks where you kill innocent people, bystanders. But I really hope people can see beyond that and realize this is the last call of a despaired nation, an ethnic group that is giving up on life.”
Wu’er Kaixi has attempted to return to China’s mainland to visit his aging parents, both Uighur intellectuals. But he was unable to make the trip. He says he feels sad to be in exile and not be able to see his parents. And he is sad that the situation in Xinjiang has become so violent.
“Uighur people are committing suicide these days. When they decide to take their own lives they want to take a few Chinese people together with them. It’s a very sad fact. It may keep happening.”
I’m Caty Weaver.
In response to a listener's comment, we have attached the full quote from Wu'er Kaixi regarding his views on the bombings that occured in Xinjiang. (This quote was shortened for our broadcast due to time contraints.)
Q: Do you follow the events in Xinjiang? What do you expect as the fallout?
A: “It’s a very sad situation in Xinjiang these days in my home country. Those are terrorist attacks where you kill innocent people, bystanders. But I really hope people can see beyond that and realize this is the last call of a despaired nation, an ethnic group that is giving up on life. It’s also a suicide attack. And it has been repeating. Uighur people are committing suicide these days. When they decide to take their own lives they want to take a few Chinese people together with them. It’s a very sad fact. It may keep happening."
June 5, 2014