China’s state-run media today blamed around 100 people it branded as “terrorists” for sparking ‘riots’ in the ethnically-divided region of Xinjiang,where clashes killed 35 days earlier.
The riot took place in the prefecture of Hotan yesterday,where the group “(attacked) a number of people with weapons after gathering at local religious venues,” the state-run Global Times said today.
The latest incident followed clashes on Wednesday that were the deadliest to hit the western desert region home to around 10 million members of the mostly Muslim Uighur minority since 2009,when riots killed around 200 people.
Radio Free Asia,which is funded by the US government,quoted a resident as saying that local Uighurs were angry police had “stormed into the mosque and surrounded it” during prayers last week because the local imam had deviated from an officially sanctioned sermon. It also quoted a source as saying police opened fire on Uighurs as they left a local mosque.
“Young Uighurs on motorcycles were leaving the mosque,they were shouting religious slogans…The police were frightened and started shooting at them. At least two died and one was injured,” the report said.
A state-run news website,Tianshan Web,said that no members of the public had been killed or injured,without stating whether police or government staff had died. China’s President Xi Jinping said following the attacks that “(the incidents) must be handled quickly to guarantee the general stability of the society,” Tianshan Web reported today.
China often labels outbreaks of sporadic unrest in the region as terrorism claims denied by Uighur rights groups who blame unrest on economic inequality and religious repression. It was not possible to verify details of Wednesday’s clash independently as reporters were barred from entering the town detained and later followed by local police.
The Uyghur American Association,run by exiled members of the minority,said a “blackout of news” on attacks in the region cast doubt on Chinese government claims in a statement released today. “The state then uses its propaganda apparatus to label the incident ‘terrorism’ without presenting any evidence that can be independently proved,” the group said. The recent unrest occurred shortly before the anniversary of the 2009 riots,and ahead of celebrations for the Muslim Ramadan festival which Uighurs have said are repressed by local authorities.