The deplorable mass sentencing of 55 people at a stadium in China’s north-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region [XUAR] is no solution to addressing public security fears, said Amnesty International.
Fifty five people, believed to be mostly Muslim Uighurs, were sentenced for terrorism, separatism and murder. Three were sentenced to death.
“Those responsible for the recent violent attacks have shown a callous disregard for human life and must be held to account. But speedy show trials will not deliver justice for the victims. Hastily sentencing people after unfair trials will only exacerbate tensions in the region,” said William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International.
The sentencing took place in front of more than 7,000 people state media reported on Wednesday.
All of those sentenced are believed to be at risk of torture in detention. The local Communist Party leader, Zhang Chunxian said recently that suspected criminals should be “severely punished” before trial.
“With such charades, the Chinese authorities appear more concerned with courting public opinion than justice. It is highly doubtful the accused received fair trials,” said William Nee.
The sentence parade followed a wave of attacks as ethnic tensions rise within the XUAR. Thirty-one people died and over 90 were injured on 22 May, when bombs were thrown from two cars driving along a busy street in the region’s capital Urumqi.
The Chinese authorities have declared a “strike hard” campaign in response to recent attacks. Last week saw the launch of an anti-terrorism campaign, with convoys of anti-terrorist forces and military equipment paraded through Urumqi.
“The Chinese authorities have a duty to ensure public security but the response so far seems only likely to inflame tensions,” said William Nee.
Ethnic Uighurs face widespread discrimination including in employment, education, and housing, and curtailed religious freedom and political marginalization.