China sentences 55 in mass trial at Xinjiang stadium
BEIJING // In a stadium filled with 7,000 people, a court in China’s restive Xinjiang convicted 55 people of terrorism, separatism and murder.
It was a show of force as the government seeks to display its determination to combat unrest in mainly Muslim Xinjiang following last week’s attack at a vegetable market in Urumqi that killed 43 people.
At least one convict received a death sentence at Tuesday’s sentencing in Yili, in northern Xinjiang near the Kazakhstan border, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
It said the audience in the stadium was made up of local residents and officials.
The report gave few details about the cases, but defendants whose names were reported all appeared to be Uighurs, members of the region’s biggest Muslim ethnic minority group.
On Tuesday, authorities said police in southwestern Xinjiang foiled a bomb plot and arrested five people.
According to the government, more than 200 people have been detained this month in Xinjiang and 23 extremist groups broken up. No details about them were released.
The government says unrest among Uighurs is caused by extremist groups with ties to Islamic terror groups abroad, but experts say they see little evidence of that.
Among Tuesday’s cases, three defendants were convicted of using unspecified “extremely cruel methods” to kill four people, including a 3-year-old girl, in the city of Yining on April 20, 2013, according to Xinhua.
Officials of the Yili branch of the Xinjiang High Court also announced the arrests and detentions of an additional 65 people for offences including separatism, covering up crimes and rape, said the news agency.
Photos showed armed officers guarding the premises, and the accused crammed into backs of lorries wearing orange vests and bent forward to face the ground as helmeted security forces stood over them.
The event was intended to demonstrate China’s “resolute determination [to] crack down on the ‘three forces’ of violent terrorism”, Yili’s deputy party chief was cited as saying, referring to separatism, extremism and terrorism.
“The guilty will not escape,” he said.
China used mass trials in the 1980s and 90s to try to combat the rise in crime driven by the social upheavals that accompanied the country’s dramatic economic overhaul, but the practice later faded.
* Associated Press, with additional reporting from Agence France-Presse
Published: May 28, 2014 04:00 AM