Asia-Pacific

Amnesty challenges China on Xinjiang riot accounts‎

A crowd of angry locals confront security forces on a street in the city of Urumqi
Image caption Uighurs allege Chinese security forces used excessive force during the riots

Amnesty International has challenged the official Chinese version of events in Xinjiang a year ago, when nearly 200 people were killed in ethnic clashes.

China blamed the violence in the regional capital Urumqi on the local ethnic Uighur population, saying most of the recorded dead were Han Chinese.

But the human rights group says police used unnecessary force against Uighurs, followed by mass arrests and torture.

The claim comes as thousands of CCTV cameras have been put up across Urumqi.

The cameras, which have a "riot-proof" protective shell, have been set up across the city, including at bus and railway stations, schools and shops.

Last year's violence, China's worst in decades, erupted on 5 July and only ended after huge numbers of troops were deployed.

Image caption China's police have been staging drills to deal with any similar emergencies

Xinjiang, a resource-rich region that borders Central Asia, has more than eight million Uighurs.

Many are unhappy about the large influx of Han Chinese settlers, which they say has increasingly marginalised their interests and culture.

Amnesty International (AI) says it has newly gathered testimonies from Uighurs who fled China after the unrest.

They allege that demonstrators were attacked by the security forces, shot in the back or denied protection.

The Amnesty report says more than 1,000 people were detained and possibly hundreds subjected to enforced disappearances.

According to official statistics, at least 198 people have been sentenced. Nine people are known to have been executed and at least 26 more sentenced to death, the report says.

AI is calling on China to set up an independent and impartial inquiry into the human rights abuses committed by all participants in the unrest.

"The official account leaves too many questions unanswered. How many people really died, who killed them, how did it happen, and why?" said AI's Asia-Pacific deputy director Catherine Baber.

Crackdown

Security remains tight in Urumqi.

Image caption Thousands of security cameras have been installed across Urumqi

The cameras, which are being monitored around the clock, were installed to "ensure security in key public places, allow people of all ethnicities to enjoy quality public services, and create a peaceful capital," the Xinjiang Economic Daily reported.

Some 5,000 police officers have been recruited in the year since the clashes, and Urumqi's police chief Wang Mingshan said officers had been staging drills to deal with any similar emergencies.

Last week, police said they had broken up a gang behind a number of attacks in Xinjiang.

China's Public Security Ministry said that the 10 "hardcore terrorists" arrested had planned attacks in southern Xinjiang between July and October 2009.

He said they were also behind an attack in Kashgar in August 2008 in which 16 Chinese border police were killed.