Port Vila, Vanuatu (PressExposure) November 23, 2009 -- Even as thousands across Europe commemorated the pulling down of the Berlin wall 20 years ago, across the world China killed nine men for committing crimes that killed 200 people in far western Xinjain region, during riots in July.
The judgement was handed down from the Supreme People's Court, after secrecy-shrouded trials, condemned to death eight Uighurs, from the Muslim minority and one Han. The men were convicted of murder and other crimes.
Han people in the regional capital of Urumqi have been assaulted by Uighurs in the worst ethnic unrest in decades, which commenced on July 5th.
The violence began in the southern Chinese city of Shaoguan, after police broke up a demonstration by Uighur students demanding an investigation into a deadly fight at a factory, in which Han workers murdered two Uighurs. The Uighur crowd then rampaged through the western city's southern neighborhoods, hunting down Han residents, smashing vehicles and burning Han shops.
Han vigilantes reacted by storming into Uighur neighborhoods with clubs, meat cleavers and lead pipes to take revenge two days after the riot. Numerous stories of bizarre hypodermic needle attacks also surfaced.
The official death count stands at 197 with 1,721 injured, most of them Han; although some Uighurs believe that many more on their side remain unaccounted for.
Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim linguistic and culturally ethnic group, distinct from the Han, have long despised Beijingâs heavy handed rule in their traditional homeland, Xinjiang. The area is still under heavy security, with no Internet or international calls permitted. China condemns more people to death than any other country. In 2007 an estimated 6,000 people were killed. Politically sensitive cases are normally judged quickly, particularly when it involves major unrest, or threatens social stability.
Most of the death sentences are carried out by gunshot, though in some provinces lethal injection is used.
China accuses U.S. based Uighur activist, Rebiya Kadeer and other overseas Uighur-rights groups for fermenting and manipulating the violence. Uighur overseas activist Dilxat Raxit condemned the executions as being politically motivated, alongside the need for China authorities to appease Urumqiâs angry Han residents, who marched in the thousands through the city in September. Raxit said âThe United States and the European Union did not put any pressure on China, or seek to intervene and for that we are extremely disappointed".
"The authorities may achieve their goal of short term stability, but they're not solving the basic problems and they're not going to be able to put the issues behind themâ stated China expert, Steve Tsang, of Oxford University.
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