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Sunday, 19 March, 2000, 20:07 GMT
China executes 11 Uighurs

By Louise Hildago in Tashkent

The official Chinese media say 11 people have been executed on charges including murder and separatist activities in China's troubled north-west province of Xinjiang.

The state-run Xinjiang Daily said they were among 29 violent criminals led by Maimaititu'erxun Sidike, a member of the Muslim Uighur community, who form a majority in the province.

The newspaper said the men had been executed after two huge public trials earlier this month.

The first group, it said, was accused of killing six workers at a mine; the other of murdering two policemen and a police informer.

Violent rebellion

The charges date back to 1997, the year in which a smouldering rebellion against Chinese rule in Xinjiang burst to life.

In the worst violence for years, about 1,000 Uighurs rampaged through the town of Yining, shouting independence slogans, hurling stones and torching cars.

Ten Han Chinese were beaten to death.

Rebiya Kadeer
Rebiya Kadeer: sentenced to eight years
Dozens of people were executed for their part in the riots and the bombings of public buses which followed.

But for the last two years, attacks on transport links and government targets appear to have diminished, although reports of Uighurs being imprisoned have continued.

Just 10 days ago, a well-known Muslim businesswoman in the province, Rebiya Kadeer, was jailed for eight years, charged with revealing State secrets.

Several oases in the volatile south-west of Xinjiang also reportedly remain under tight security.

Demands for self-determination by the Uighurs of Xinjiang have been growing ever since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the emergence across the border of the Central Asian States, which are home to millions of Muslims very like themselves.

But the penalties for separatist activities in China remain severe.

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