Page last updated at 10:29 GMT, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 11:29 UK

Confusion over Xinjiang trials

Photo of the English language government China Daily newspaper on 31 July 2009
In July, the China Daily published photos of people wanted over the riots

There is confusion about how many people China plans to put on trial over the ethnic violence in Xinjiang last month, and when this might happen.

The local government has questioned media reports that 200 suspects, far more than initially thought, will face trial, some as early as this week.

An official has now said the number is closer to 80, and no date has been set.

Correspondents say it is highly unusual for information released by China's state media to be subsequently denied.

The date of the Xinjiang trials is being closely watched both in China and abroad, because of their sensitive nature.

The unrest in July saw fighting erupt between Muslim Uighurs and members of China's dominant Han ethnic group. It left 197 people dead and another 1,700 injured, and was the worst ethnic violence in China for decades.

The government says most of the dead were Han Chinese, but the exile activist group the World Uighur Congress claims many Uighurs were also killed.

'No scheduled date'

On Monday, the state-run China Daily reported on its front page that prosecutions would begin later this week against at least 200 people involved in the violence.

Map of Xinjiang

But on Tuesday Li Hua, an official at the Xinjiang government media office, questioned the accuracy of the report.

"At present, there is no scheduled date for the trial," he told reporters. "I don't know how China Daily got that information, but it's not true. We will announce it to the media when there is a trial."

He also denied that the number of people facing trial was as many as 200, citing an earlier report which put the figure at 83.

"We haven't received any official notice on a change in the number of the suspects. So currently, the number of suspects is still 83," he told the French news agency AFP.

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