China jails 20 on terror charges in Xinjiang

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China has sentenced 20 men to jail terms of up to life imprisonment on charges of terrorism and inciting secession in Xinjiang, state media say.

Some of the men, who are all thought to be members of the ethnic Uighur group who live in the region, were accused of plotting to assassinate local police.

An exiled Uighur group described the sentences as "repressive".

It said the men had been persecuted for listening to foreign radio broadcasts and forwarding video clips.

The men were convicted of a number of crimes, the local state-run news agency reported. These include circulating extremist religious material and attempting to promote ethnic separatism on the internet.

It is not known whether the 20 accused men pleaded guilty or not. Regardless of their plea, acquittals in China's party-run court system are rare, says the BBC's John Sudworth in Shanghai.

Xinjiang is home to about nine million mainly Muslim Uighurs.

But as a result of inward migration over past decades, that number is now almost matched by residents from the Han Chinese majority, our correspondent adds.

Tensions between the two groups have been high since riots in 2009, China's deadliest ethnic violence in decades.

Exiled Uighur groups accuse the Chinese state of trying to crush their culture and religion.

But the Beijing authorities say they are fighting only violent extremists who want to take over the region and form an independent Islamic state.

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