Uygurs executed for killing police

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 April, 2009, 12:00am

Two Uygurs were executed yesterday for their roles in a deadly attack last August in which 17 border police were killed and 15 injured.

The two men, Abdurahman Azat, 34, and Kurbanjan Hemit, 29, were executed at an undisclosed place in Kashgar shortly after the Intermediate People's Court of Kashi prefecture announced the outcome of the Supreme Court's review of the sentences at about 11am yesterday, Xinhua reported.

Xinhua said the two had been convicted of intentional homicide and illegally producing guns, ammunition and explosives, citing the verdicts by the Supreme People's Court on December 17.

The two Uygurs, according to early Xinhua reports, attacked a group of border police in Kashgar using a truck, guns, explosives, knives and axes on August 4, four days before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games. They were both arrested.

The execution came a day after two Tibetans were sentenced to death for starting fires that killed six people in Lhasa riots in March last year and two other Tibetans were handed death penalties that were suspended for two years.

Beijing-based independent China watcher Zhang Dajun said the timing of the two sensitive sentences could well be planned by authorities to limit international reaction.

'People [around the world] have their hands full dealing with the current economic recession, so human rights issues like this could get pushed lower down on developed countries' political agendas,' Mr Zhang said.

He said Beijing, though obviously careful not to attract too much attention to Xinjiang and Tibet, had never bent to international pressure on rights or ethnic-minority issues in the two autonomous regions.

'You can expect nothing but heavy-handed punishment for so-called terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and Tibet, as the Chinese government prefers to show no hesitation in cracking down on such acts.'

The Xinjiang attack and riots in Tibet last year may have been aimed at distracting Beijing as it focused on hosting the Olympic Games, and calling the world's attention to their causes of independence.

Dilxadi Rexiti, spokesman for the German-based World Uygur Congress, said the executions yesterday were another example of China's cruel suppression of Uygurs in Xinjiang.

'No Uygurs or lawyers were involved in the court hearings. The only thing they [central government] made public was that the two guys would be executed,' he said.

The executions were announced yesterday in a stadium before an audience of 4,000, a move that appeared intended as a warning to Uygurs who might plan similar attacks as the nation prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Beijing also calls it the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Xinjiang.

Mr Rexiti said his congress would collect evidence of the central government's treatment of Uygurs in Xinjiang and share the information with the international media and rights groups. 'The Chinese government should understand that nothing can cover up its cruel rule in Xinjiang,' he said.

Zhou Xiaozheng, a professor at Renmin University, said the executions would attract little notice inside the mainland given the dominance of state media. 'People can only know what the government wants them to know, as all domestic media are controlled by the government.'