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China: Mass sentencing of Uighurs in stadium condemned as 'charade'

The deplorable mass sentencing of 55 people at a stadium in China’s north-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is a charade which will only exacerbate tensions in the region, Amnesty International said today.

The 55 people, believed to be mostly Muslim Uighurs, were sentenced for terrorism, separatism and murder, with three sentenced to death.   

The sentencing took place in front of more than 7,000 people, Chinese state media reported yesterday.   

All of those sentenced are believed to be at risk of torture in detention. The local Communist Party leader, Zhang Chunxian said recently that suspected criminals should be “severely punished” before trial.

The public sentencing followed a wave of attacks as ethnic tensions rise in Xinjiang. 31 people died and more than 90 were injured on 22 May, when bombs were thrown from two cars driving along a busy street in the region’s capital Urumqi.   

Amnesty’s China researcher William Nee said:

'Those responsible for the recent violent attacks have shown a callous disregard for human life and must be held to account.

'But speedy show trials will not deliver justice for the victims. Hastily sentencing people after unfair trials will only exacerbate tensions in the region.

'With such charades, the Chinese authorities appear more concerned with courting public opinion than justice.'

The Chinese authorities have declared a “strike hard” campaign in response to recent attacks. Last week saw the launch of an anti-terrorism campaign, with convoys of anti-terrorist forces and military equipment paraded through Urumqi.

Ethnic Uighurs face widespread discrimination including in employment, education, and housing, and curtailed religious freedom and political marginalisation.

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