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China transparency urged year after Xinjiang bloodshed

International Desk |
Update: 2010-07-02 13:36:37

WASHINGTON: The United States is urging Beijing to be more transparent in its restive northwestern region of Xinjiang ahead of the tense anniversary of China`s worst ethnic bloodshed in decades.

Urumqi, the capital of the vast, arid but resource-rich region, erupted in violence on July 5, 2009, pitting Xinjiang`s predominantly Muslim Uighur people against China`s majority Han community.

"We continue to urge China to handle all detentions and judicial processes relating to last year`s violence in Urumqi in a transparent manner," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told AFP.

"We have urged China to ensure that the legal rights of all Chinese citizens are respected in accordance with international standards of due process," he said.

Toner said that the United States has discussed its concerns "repeatedly" to China via its embassy in Beijing.

Chinese authorities say that nearly 200 people were killed and about 1,700 injured in the unrest, with Han making up most of the victims in sometimes brutal attacks by Uighurs.

Uighur activists charge that Chinese authorities have rounded up thousands of suspected government critics since the unrest, sometimes accusing them vaguely of being part of "Islamic terrorist" plots.

At least nine people, who appear mostly to be Uighurs, have been executed over the unrest, according to official accounts.

Many of Xinjiang`s eight million Uighurs are unhappy with what they say has been decades of repressive communist rule and an influx of Han settlers that they believe has marginalized them in their own homeland.

China rejects accusations it mistreats minorities and says it has worked to bring prosperity to Xinjiang as well as Tibet.

China has announced it is pouring around 10 billion yuan (1.5 billion dollars) in development aid into Xinjiang beginning in 2011 to raise Uighur living standards and quell discontent.

The violence erupted last year after Uighurs took to the streets to demand police action over the killings of migrant Uighur factory workers at the hands of Han in ethnically charged brawls in southern China.

Amnesty International in a new report said that security forces used violence to put down what had been a peaceful protest.

"The official account leaves too many questions unanswered. How many people really died, who killed them, how did it happen, and why?" said Catherine Baber, the London-based rights group`s Asia-Pacific deputy director.

"Instead of stifling inquiry, blaming outside agitators and generating fear, the Chinese government should use the anniversary to launch a proper investigation, including into the Uighur community`s long-simmering grievances that contributed to the unrest," Baber said.

China has imposed even tighter security for the anniversary. Police have installed 40,000 security cameras throughout Xinjiang, according to state media.

Rebiya Kadeer, the leader of exiled Uighurs who lives in the United States, has voiced disappointment at what she sees as low-key foreign statements on Xinjiang, which Uighurs call East Turkestan.

"Imagine if something like this happened in Palestine or Iraq -- the whole world would be screaming. But in East Turkestan, thousands of people are dying or disappearing and who`s talking about it?" she told AFP in a recent interview.

BDST: 8:43 HRS, July 3, 2010

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