China jails 32 in Xinjiang on terror charges

This picture taken on 6 June 2014 shows security forces participating in a military drill in Hetian, northwest China's Xinjiang region. Image copyright AFP
Image caption China has stepped up military drills and security in Xinjiang as part of its campaign against terrorism

Courts in China's Xinjiang region have jailed 32 people on charges of spreading extremist content online and organising terror groups, media report.

Three of them were jailed for life while the others received sentences varying from four to 15 years, according to Xinhua.

Chinese officials have blamed militant Uighur groups for a growing number of violent attacks across the country.

China has seen several recent high-profile attacks on civilian targets.

In October last year a car ploughed into pedestrians in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing five people, and there have also been attacks at railway stations in Urumqi and Kunming.

The Xinjiang courts convicted the defendants on charges of using their mobile phones and social media to store, download and spread religious extremist and terror-related content.

The 32 people were also found guilty of organising and leading terror groups, constructing explosive devices, and "fanning ethnic hatred and prejudice".

In May, China launched what it called a "year-long campaign against terrorism" after 39 people were killed when five suicide bombers attacked a street market in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital.

Authorities have since carried out a string of arrests and jailed numerous people on terrorism charges. Nine people were sentenced to death in Xinjiang on similar charges last month.

Uighurs and Xinjiang

  • Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
  • They make up about 45% of the region's population; 40% are Han Chinese
  • China re-established control of the region in 1949 after crushing the short-lived state of East Turkestan
  • Since then, there has been large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
  • Uighurs fear erosion of their traditional culture

Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs?

Critics of China's policies in Xinjiang point to economic inequality and cultural and religious repression as other possible reasons for the growing radicalism and resentment.

China says it is pouring money into the Xinjiang region, but some Uighurs say their traditions and freedoms are being crushed.

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