BEIJING (Reuters) – Courts in China’s far western region of Xinjiang tried 376 people last year for “crimes against national security” and their involvement in violence that left at least six dead, the People’s Daily website said, citing a high court official.
Six people died and 15 were injured last August after a deadly attack on Chinese military police in restive Xinjiang — long the scene of ethnic tension and violence.
“The people’s courts at all various levels in Xinjiang will put the crackdown on terrorism as its top priority for the criminal courts,” Rozi Simayi, president of the supreme people’s court in Xinjiang was quoted by the website as saying late on Sunday.
Beijing often blames what it calls three forces of religious extremism, ethnic separatism and international terrorism in Xinjiang for attacks on police or other government targets, saying they work with al Qaeda or Central Asian militants to bring about an independent state called East Turkestan.
But Uighur exiles accuse China of whipping up the threat posed by armed separatists to justify harsh crackdowns in Xinjiang.
Many Uighurs — a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people native to the region — chafe under rule from Beijing and restrictions on their language, culture and religion.
They now make up less than half of Xinjiang’s population after decades of immigration by the ethnic Han majority who transfer from other parts of China.
In July 2009, nearly 200 people died in violence that exploded across Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi, after a protest by the minority Turkic Uighurs, who have called the region home for centuries but fear they are being marginalised by Han Chinese.
Han Chinese launched revenge attacks two days later.