Chinese police fatally shot two members of the Uighur community trying to illegally enter Vietnam on Sunday night, state media said Monday. The two men were part of a group from the Muslim ethnic minority from China's northwestern Xinjiang region.
The incident reportedly took place in the Guangxi region of southern China after the men "violently resisted arrest," the China News Service said, according to Reuters, adding that they clashed with police near the Vietnamese border. The incident follows reports that separatists from the Uighur community -- blamed for several deadly attacks across the country in recent months -- were attempting to enter neighboring countries. The Uighurs accuse Beijing of religious persecution, and recently, China banned the use of the hijab in public.
"Police ultimately shot dead two people, and one person fled toward a residential community," the local news agency said, citing local authorities, adding that a manhunt was underway. However, authorities reportedly said that it was unclear how many Uighurs were trying to flee China.
The incident took place on the same day that China's Ministry of Public Security reported that about 260 cases of human trafficking have been uncovered since May 2014, according to Reuters. Authorities accused the separatist group of being linked to the smugglings, which are "mainly organized abroad and controlled behind the scenes by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in efforts to spread religious extremism, and bewitch and incite people to flee abroad to take part in jihadist activities," the ministry reportedly said.
Human rights advocates from the Uighur community have reportedly stated that the Chinese government has exaggerated the role of terrorism in Xinjiang. "There is a direct link between the dramatic increase of runaways and China's policy of suppression," Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, told Reuters.