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China denies spying on Uighurs in Sweden

Chinese armed police in Urumqi, Xinjiang region, China - 9 July 2009
Many Uighurs complain of oppression in the Xinjiang region

China's foreign ministry has denied that the country has been spying on political refugees living in Sweden.

The reaction comes after a Stockholm court jailed a Uighur refugee for 16 months for passing on information about other Uighurs to a Chinese agent.

The court said the man had infiltrated the World Uighur Congress, a political body for exiled Uighurs.

But a ministry spokesman in Beijing said the allegations were "totally groundless" and had "ulterior motives".

"The Chinese institutions functioning abroad and Chinese diplomatic staff are performing their responsibilities and abiding by the laws of the country where they are stationed," said Qin Gang.

He said all staff followed diplomatic conventions, so the accusations were "fabricated with ulterior motives".

CHINA'S UIGHURS
Ethnically Turkic Muslims, mainly live in Xinjiang
Made bid for independent state in 1940s
Sporadic violence in Xinjiang since 1991
Uighurs worried about ethnic Han Chinese immigration and erosion of traditional culture

Babur Maihesuti, 62, was found guilty on Monday of collecting information about other Uighurs and passing it on to a Chinese spy posing as a diplomat and journalist.

The court said the case was "especially serious because the intelligence served a superpower which does not have full respect for human rights".

It said the verdict was based on "strong" prosecution evidence, including wire-tapped telephone conversations and interviews with Uighur witnesses.

Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking, mainly-Muslim people living in north-west China's Xinjiang region. Many complain of religious, cultural and political oppression.

Nearly 200 people were killed last July in riots in north-west China between Uighurs and China's majority Han.



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