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China Sentences Five More To Death For Xinjiang Riots

Chinese security forces armed with spears stand guard on People's Square after an incident between ethnic Uyghurs and Chinese security forces on the streets of Urumqi in July.
BEIJING (Reuters) -- A Chinese court has sentenced five more people to death for their part in bloody ethnic rioting earlier this year in Urumqi, the capital of far western Xinjiang region, a local government spokeswoman said today.

The new trial, which was not reported in national Chinese media, brings the number of death sentences for the rioting to at least 22, of which at least nine have already been carried out.

Uyghurs attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5, after protests against Han attacks on Uyghur workers in South China a few weeks earlier. Han launched revenge attacks two days later.

At least 197 people died, mostly Han Chinese, who form the majority in China.

"Altogether 22 defendants in five cases went on trial on December 22 and December 23," Hou Hanmin, director of the Xinjiang Government Information Office, told Reuters by phone.

Hou would not specify the charges, which she said were published in Xinjiang newspapers. The Internet has been blocked in Xinjiang since July, and local newspaper websites cannot be accessed from outside the region.

The intermediate court in Urumqi sentenced another five people to death with a two-year suspension, which is usually commuted to a life sentence, and jailed another eight for life, according to a statement faxed by the spokeswoman.

Judging from the names, the 10 sentenced to death or the suspended death sentence are all be Uyghurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people native to Xinjiang. Many Uyghurs resent an influx of Han Chinese that has left them accounting for only half the population of their homeland.

The statement said the court was shown ample evidence in the open trials, and that more similar trials would follow.