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Nine executed over Xinjiang riots

 a line up of defendants (orange tops) next to security officers during a trial over the July, 2009 ethnic unrest  ( 15 Oct)
A total of 21 people have been convicted over the riots

Chinese authorities have executed nine people in connection with the ethnic riots in Xinjiang earlier this year, regional reports say.

Nearly 200 people were killed in July during unrest between ethnic Uighurs and members of China's Han majority in the regional capital, Urumqi.

The nine men were convicted of crimes including murder and arson, according to the state-owned China News Service.

The reports do not say whether those executed were Uighurs or Han.

But if the executions were in line with previous statements by the Xinjiang government, the group consisted of eight Uighurs and one Han.

A spokesman for the Xinjiang government said the executions had been carried out after a review by the Supreme Court.

Uighur activist Dilxat Raxit condemned the executions, saying they were motivated by politics and the need to appease Urumqi's Han community.

Justice?

The violence in Urumqi erupted on 5 July, when protests by Uighurs left at least 197 people dead and another 1,700 injured.

Security forces in Urumqi, Xinjiang, China (13 July 2009)
Xinjiang has seen a high security presence since the unrest

Shops were smashed and vehicles set alight, with passers-by being set upon by Uighur rioters.

Two days later, groups of Han went looking for revenge as police struggled to restore order.

Most of those killed were Han, according to officials, and Urumqi's Han population demanded swift justice.

A total of 21 people were sentenced in October. Nine were sentenced to death, and three were given the death penalty with a two-year reprieve, a sentence which is usually commuted to life in jail.

They were convicted of crimes such as murder, damage to property, arson and robbery.

Tensions between the Uighurs and Han have been growing in recent years.

Millions of Han have moved to the region in recent decades, and while the majority of residents used to be Muslim Uighurs, Han now outnumber them in some areas, including Urumqi.

Many Uighurs want more autonomy and rights for their culture and religion - Islam - than is allowed by Beijing's strict rule.

Map of Xinjiang, China

According to a recent government white paper on Xinjiang, the July riots were caused by Uighur separatists promoting an independent "East Turkestan".

The exiled World Uighur Congress says Beijing exaggerates the threat to justify harsh controls.

There have been a number of bombings and other attacks over the years in the region that authorities have blamed on separatists.



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