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China executes 9 for role in Xinjiang riots

It is presumed that most of those executed were Uighurs. The announcement of the sentencing adds to the clamor for President Obama to press China on human rights during his visit.

November 10, 2009|Barbara Demick

BEIJING — China has executed nine people for their participation in the country's worst ethnic rioting in decades, an official news service announced Monday in a terse bulletin.

The report did not disclose the identity of those executed or the date the sentence was carried out, but it is presumed that most of those executed were Uighurs. Once the dominant ethnic group in China's Xinjiang region, Uighurs were blamed for the July 5 riots in Urumqi in which 197 people, mostly Han Chinese, were killed and 1,600 injured.

The announcement, coming in the run-up to President Obama's first trip to China, will likely add to the clamor of voices demanding that he speak up more forcefully on human rights.

"The fact that Chinese authorities had the audacity to carry out these executions on the eve of President Barack Obama's visit to China displays their utter disregard for international human rights standards," Rebiya Kadeer, the Washington-based leader of the World Uyghur Congress, said Monday in a statement.

Last month, news agencies reported that 12 people had been sentenced to death, with three of the sentences commuted to prison terms. From the names released last month, it appeared that one of those to be executed was Han Chinese, the others Uighur.

The July 5 riots grew out of what was initially billed as a peaceful demonstration by Uighurs demanding justice over the killing of two Uighur men the previous month in a factory brawl in southeastern China. But the protests degenerated into mob violence, with young men setting fires, looting and hitting people with bricks and sticks after yanking them from cars and buses.

China initially won praise for an unusual decision to invite Western journalists to Urumqi to cover the riots, but once arrests of Uighurs began, access was cut off. Human Rights Watch released a report last month saying that hundreds of Uighur men had been summarily rounded up, and dozens had "disappeared" without their families being told whether they'd been arrested or what charges they faced. The human rights group said those arrested were as young as 12 and as old as 70.

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barbara.demick@latimes.com

Nicole Liu of The Times' Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.

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