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Amnesty Signals Out China Muslims

April 20, 1999

BEIJING (AP) _ China is using torture, summary trials and swift executions to suppress anti-Chinese sentiment among Muslims in the far northwest, Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday.

At least 210 people have been sentenced to death in the past two years in Xinjiang, the only area in China to routinely execute political prisoners, the London-based group reported. It said defendants who appear in court overwhelmingly complain of police torture to force confessions.

Amnesty said it based its report on accounts of former prisoners, official Chinese statements, scholars studying the region and other sources.

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Sun Yuxi, refused to comment on the report, saying he had not read it. He acknowledged that occasional human rights problems were likely, but denied any systematic abuses.

``As far as I know in Xinjiang the ethnic policies of our country have been enforced quite well and the people are united to build our country,″ Sun said.

A resource-rich region bordering Central Asia, Xinjiang is a flashpoint for unrest in China. Unemployment, discrimination and curbs on religious freedom have fueled anti-Chinese sentiment and spawned an armed separatist movement among the Uighurs, the region’s largest ethnic group.

Repression worsened as armed rebellion grew in mid-1996, especially after an anti-Chinese riot erupted in the city of Yining in February 1997.

Since January 1997, 210 people are known to have been sentenced to death in Xinjiang, the vast majority of them Uighurs, and 190 of them have been executed, the report said, adding that the real figures are believed to be higher.

Most of those sentenced to death were accused of offenses related to protests, terrorism and other acts of peaceful or armed opposition to Chinese rule, the report said.

Xinjiang now has nearly 200 political prisoners, Amnesty reported.

The group said police brutally suppressed the protests in February 1997. Police herded 300 to 400 demonstrators, including some children, into an open area, hosed them with icy water and kept them in freezing temperatures for two hours, resulting in such severe frostbite that hands and feet had to be amputated, Amnesty said.

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