Authorities in China jailed nine more people for up to 14 years for their links to recent terror attacks mostly centered on the restive northwestern province of Xinjiang, which is home to the minority Muslim Uighur group, reports said, citing state media Thursday.
The sentencing rally, aimed at exposing terror suspects and deterring would-be extremists, was reportedly attended by more than 3,000 people, marking the latest development in China's year-long crackdown on terrorism, following a series of high-profile attacks across the country, reportedly perpetrated by Islamist terrorists from the troubled province. Xinjiang's minority Muslim Uighur population, which has in the past blamed Beijing for religious persecution, reportedly wants to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.
"Clearly recognize who is our enemy and who are brothers and sisters," Li Wei, the Communist Party deputy chief of Qapqal county, located close to the border with Kazakhstan, was quoted as saying, according to Reuters. "Resolutely smash the evil plots of the enemy."
Although details about the sentencing were not revealed, most of the names of the nine accused people reportedly appeared to be Uighur, reports said, adding that authorities in Qapqal also announced arrest warrants against 25 more people and issued detention orders for 14 others. The suspects were reportedly charged with leading, and participating in, overseas terror-training camps, inciting separatism and provoking people to begin a holy war.
According to Channel News Asia, Dilshat Rexit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an international organization of exiled Uighurs, criticized the mass sentencing, saying: "Forced repression will lead more Uighurs to resist Chinese rule."
Earlier this month, three people were executed for their role in last October's deadly attack on Tiananmen Square. In May, a rally was held in a Xinjiang stadium, which was attended by more than 7,000 people where 55 people found guilty of charges such as terrorism and separatism were sentenced. Government officials have also said that more than 200 people were detained in the region in May and about 23 extremist groups have been dismantled.