113 Sentenced in Xinjiang

Chinese authorities bent on dispelling separatist sentiments from its troubled Western province of Xinjiang have announced sentences for an additional 113 ethnic Uighurs on charges ranging from inciting terrorism to possessing “terrorist” materials. The sentences handed out are of no less than ten years, and include 69 life sentences. The charges brought fourth against the 113 sentenced stem from ongoing violence throughout the region with relations between the Turkic minority and Han Chinese reaching their nadir following a deadly knife attack in in the southwestern city of Kunming. The attack, which claimed the lives of 29 civilians as well as four of the eight assailants, served to galvanize Chinese support for increasingly harsh measures set to crack down on the minority as separatist pockets among the populace continue to act out against the government.

The arrest and sentencing of Uighurs suspected of terror-related offenses has now been classified as a type of “race,” with some viewing the process as oppressive and lacking in due process. It is unclear whether or not the 113 sentenced had direct involvement in the recent attacks or were simply guilty of having Uighur surnames. The Chinese government has claimed  justification for harsh measures bordering on martial law throughout the province by labeling Islamist organizations in the region as their own version of the Taliban, though international NGOs have pointed at the detention of influential scholars, biased allocation of development funds and ambiguous terror laws that allow Chinese police considerable leeway in making detentions.

News Briefs: 

  • Kazakhstan is attempting to take closer control over the Baikonur Cosmodrome, keeping up the pressure on Moscow to cede more authority to Kazakhstan. The main issue at stake for Kazakhstan is the Russian use of Proton rockets, utilizing a toxic fuel that is estimated to cause a huge amount of environmental damage, and spurred reparations payments from Russia for $90 million. The head of Kazakhstan’s space agency KazCosmos, Talgat Musabayev said that the Proton would soon be replaced with the Zenit rocket launcher, which utilizes a non-toxic fuel. He also publically stated that Russia has put up “incredible resistance” to new environmental regulations that Kazakhstan wants to implement, and there have been complaints that Russia is dragging its feet in paying compensation.
  • The Turkmen portion of the North-South International Railway has been completed,according to Turkmen Vice-President for Transportation Affairs Saltyk Saltykow, in a planned railway that will stretch from Iran to Kazakhstan via Turkmenistan. This 700 km long stretch of the project will be complete and new negotiations will take place on the Trilateral railway project. As members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), it has been suggested that this is a sister framework to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) of which only Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus are members.
  • China is charging four for Kunming terrorist attack, and a further 113 have been sentenced on terror crimes. The accused are mostly Uighurs, part of the separatist ethnic population of the far western Chinese province of Xinjiang. In March, eight knife wielding militants launched a premeditated attack on Kunming station in Yunan in which 29 were killed and 140 injured. The Kunming attack was followed by a suicide bombing in Urumqi that killed 39 people. Chinese state media has also blamed Uighur nationalist organizations for these attacks.
  • The outspoken Uzbek human rights defender, Vasila Inoyatova, has been denied entry to Kyrgyzstan after she arrived in Bishkek airport from Tashkent yesterday. Kyrgyz border service officials refused to comment on the situation, saying that explanations would be provided to written inquiries only. Colleagues of Inoyatova said the situation may be linked to her open protests in the aftermath of violent protests between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in 2010.
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