China police 'shoot two Uighurs trying to enter Vietnam'

Map of China-Vietnam border at Guangxi

Police in China have shot dead two Uighurs who were among a group trying to illegally cross into Vietnam, state media say.

The incident happened at the border town of Pingxiang in Guanxi province on Sunday night.

Officials are searching for one man who escaped, the reports say.

Authorities have blamed recent terror attacks on Uighur separatists. Activists say the Turkic Muslim minority has been repressed.

Sunday's shooting comes after recent reports of other attempts made by Uighurs, who are Chinese nationals who mostly live in the far western region of Xinjiang, to cross from China into neighbouring countries.

State-owned news agency China News Service reported that an unspecified number of Uighurs from Xinjiang had got into "conflict" with police near an expressway tollbooth at around 20:00 on Sunday (12:00 GMT).

The outlets quoted authorities as saying they used two cars to box in the Uighurs' vehicle and that the suspects subsequently "violently resisted arrest".

Two were shot dead while another fled into a nearby residential area.

Uighurs and Xinjiang

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

Who are the Uighurs?

A similar incident took place in April 2014, when a group of 16 Chinese nationals, believed to be Uighurs, were arrested in Vietnam after illegally crossing the border. They clashed with Vietnamese police and soldiers.

Two border guards were killed. Five Chinese nationals died, some of whom were shot dead while others jumped off a building, according to local media.

In November last year, nine Uighurs and 10 Turkish nationals were arrested for a plot to smuggle out the Uighurs using fake passports, Chinese media reported earlier this month.

In recent months there have been several attacks both in Xinjiang and other Chinese cities that have left dozens of civilians dead.

The authorities blame Uighur separatists inspired or helped by external extremist groups and have launched a widespread crackdown on terrorism, arresting hundreds and executing dozens.

Activists say that Uighurs have experienced economic, cultural and religious repression by the authorities over the decades, resulting in resentment.

Uighurs are said to face difficulties obtaining passports. In recent years reports suggest more have tried to make their way to South East Asia illegally.

Uighur activists say they are seeking asylum and fleeing persecution, but Chinese authorities say that many Uighurs are leaving the country to link up with Islamic militants.

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