uighur protests, uighur arrests
Ng Han Guan/AP
An Uighur woman protests before a group of paramilitary police in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Tuesday, July 7 , 2009.

China Conducts Mass Arrests in Wake of July’s Ethnic Violence

August 04, 2009 05:30 PM
by Jill Marcellus
In the past month, Chinese officials have arrested more than 1,500 people whom they claim were responsible for the deadly ethnic riots in Xinjiang.

New Arrests and Accusations

Just days after arresting 253 people in their Urumqi riot investigation, Chinese police have now detained 319 others, state newspaper Xinhua announced. The new arrests bring their total detentions to more than 1,500 since early July, when the simmering ethnic tension between Uighur Muslims and Han Chinese erupted into violence that left almost 200 people dead.

Most of those detained, according to The New York Times, are Uighur Muslims, and the Chinese government insists that the exiled head of the World Uighur Congress, Rebiya Kadeer, incited the riots. Chinese officials have supported their accusations with letters condemning Kadeer’s actions, allegedly written by her family in China and dismissed as forgeries by a World Uighur Congress spokesman, the BBC reported.

Kadeer vehemently denies involvement and also contests official accounts of the casualties and ensuing arrests. While the government claims that Han Chinese formed the overwhelming majority of riot victims, Kadeer’s Congress insists that many Uighurs died as well, according to the BBC. Kadeer further claims that China has underreported its arrests, and that 10,000 people have disappeared since the riots.

The prospects for those arrested are grim. Officials have announced only a limited number of trials, and The New York Times reports that “harsh punishment, possibly execution” likely awaits those found guilty.

NEXT: Violence in China Shines Spotlight on History of Uighur-Han Tensions

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