Police arrest 139 in Xinjiang for ‘spreading jihad’
State-run media warns of growing religious extremism in western region
China has arrested 139 people in Xinjiang for allegedly spreading jihad, state-run media said on Wednesday, as it warns of growing religious extremism in the far western region home to Muslim Uygurs.
Beijing has pointed to violent incidents to indicate a rising militant threat among the ethnic minority, but information in the vast region is tightly controlled and Uighur organisations complain of cultural and religious repression.
Police in Xinjiang have “handled an increasing number of cases in which individuals have posted or searched for religious extremist content on the internet”, the China Daily said, citing an unnamed source in the Xinjiang Daily.
In the two months to the end of August, 139 people were arrested for “spreading religious extremism including jihad”, it said.
Also citing the Xinjiang Daily, the Global Times said a farmer in Hotan was detained after he uploaded two gigabytes of e-books about secessionism which were read 30,000 times.
Dilshat Rexit, a spokesman for the overseas-based World Uygur Congress, which Beijing calls a separatist group, said the claims were a “total distortion of the truth” aimed at blocking Uygurs from going online.
Those detained had “expressed discontent with Chinese rule and systematic repression in the area”, he said.
China’s goal “is to suppress Uygurs’ use of the internet to obtain information and express different points of view”, he added.
China’s state-run media have previously reported that Uygurs have fought in Syria’s civil war against the regime, then returned home to put their militant experience into practice.
Members of a gang behind what China called a “terrorist attack” in Lukqun in June that left 35 people dead watched extremist videos beforehand, the China Daily said, citing police.
A court sentenced three people to death and one person to 25 years in jail in September over the attack, saying they had taken part in a “terrorist organisation”, the official news agency Xinhua reported at the time.
The clash was Xinjiang’s deadliest since 2009, when riots between Uygurs and China’s ethnic majority Han left 200 people dead.
Xinjiang’s population is 46 per cent Uighur and 39 per cent Han, according to official statistics, but the latter largely dominate the economy and form a majority in the regional capital Urumqi.