BEIJING- Nine people were sentenced to up to 14 years’ jail for terror-related offenses at a public rally in China’s far-western Xinjiang, officials said, the latest step in Beijing’s “strike hard” campaign in the mainly Muslim region.
Their offenses included leading and participating in terrorist organizations and inciting separatism, according to a verified micro blog posting by the Qapqal city government.
Beijing has vowed a year-long crackdown on terrorism — and last week executed 13 people — following several high-profile attacks blamed on Xinjiang militants, which since late last year have spread outside the region and targeted ordinary citizens rather than government or security personnel.
Authorities also announced the arrests and detentions of nearly 40 other terror suspects, the Qapqal government said Wednesday. They face charges including preaching jihad, inciting the subversion of state power, inciting ethnic separatism and crossing the border to take part in terror organizations, it added.
Details were not given on the nine sentenced, whose terms ranged from three to 14 years, but several of their names appeared to be Uighur, the mostly Muslim minority that is Xinjiang’s largest ethnic group.
Local Communist official Li Wei called on the 3,000 people attending the sentencing rally to help authorities expose terror suspects and take part in a “people’s war” against terrorism, reported the website of the People’s Daily, the ruling party’s official mouthpiece.
A picture distributed by Qapqal authorities showed crowds gathered at a large sports field, with several uniformed soldiers wielding riot shields and standing in front of a row of officials seated on a dais.
Xinjiang sees sporadic violent attacks. On Saturday, police in west of Hotan city shot dead 13 people after they drove into a police building and set off an explosion, authorities said.
Rights groups accuse Beijing of cultural and religious repression that feeds dissent in Xinjiang, while the government counters it has invested heavily in economic development in the area.
Dilshat Rexit, spokesman for the overseas-based World Uyghur Congress, condemned Wednesday’s mass sentencing, which he argued deprived the defendants of their rights and was marked by a lack of transparency.
“Forced repression will lead more Uighurs to resist Chinese rule,” he said.