BEIJING: China on Thursday sentenced six more people to death over bloody ethnic unrest in its far-western Xinjiang region in July, bringing the total to 12 as it delivered harsh retribution over the violence.
State media said three of the six were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve, a penalty usually commuted to life in prison, over the July 5 violence that left 197 dead in the worst ethnic violence in China in decades.
A court in the regional capital Urumqi sentenced three others to life in jail and five people to lesser prison terms for their involvement in the unrest that rocked the city, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The July violence, which pitted mainly Muslim minority Uighurs against members of China’s dominant Han group, also left more than 1,600 injured.
A total of 21 defendants have been tried and convicted since Monday of murder and other crimes such as intentional property damage, arson, and robbery. Security had been ratcheted up in Urumqi ahead of the trials.
Six Uighurs were given the death penalty on Monday and another sent to prison for life, in a move which Uighur exiles said would further stoke ethnic tensions in the region bordering Central Asia.
On Thursday, one man with a Han Chinese name — Han Junbo — was among those sentenced to death for his role in beating a Uighur man to death, Xinhua said.
Another apparently Han man, Liu Bo, was given a 10-year jail term.
Five other defendants had names that appeared to be Uighur, and the rest were not immediately identified, according to the report.
A spokeswoman for the city government in Urumqi confirmed Thursday that verdicts had been announced, but said she had no further details. Officials at the local court were not immediately available for comment.
Uighur exiles strongly condemned the first riot-related death sentences on Monday, calling them the “first of the mass executions promised by the Chinese government.”
“The Uighurs can do nothing other than hope that the world will stop China from continuing the bloody repression of the Uighur people,” a statement emailed to AFP by the World Uighur Congress read.
Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled leader of the congress who lives in the United States, said Tuesday during a visit to New Zealand that the death sentences would serve only to “further enrage” her people.
Aside from the 21 tried this week, police have also detained around 700 people suspected of crimes related to the unrest, earlier reports have said.
China’s roughly eight million Uighurs have long complained of religious, political and cultural oppression by Chinese authorities, and tensions have simmered in the Xinjiang region for years.
Uighurs say the July unrest was triggered when police cracked down on peaceful protests by Uighurs over a late June brawl at a factory in southern China that state media said left two Uighurs dead.
One ethnic Han man was sentenced to death and a second handed a life prison term over that brawl in verdicts announced on Saturday in southern China.
Authorities, however, have blamed the Xinjiang unrest on “ethnic separatists,” without providing any evidence.