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Beijing - Courts in China's western Xinjiang region have sentenced 113 people to jail terms ranging from 10 years to life for terrorist activities and other crimes, the Xinjiang government said, the latest in a slew of prosecutions targeting militant separatism.
The sentences come after Beijing has vowed to crack down on religious extremists and separatist groups, which it blames for a series of violent attacks in Xinjiang, the traditional home of the Muslim Uighurs, and elsewhere.
Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government's repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest, a claim Beijing denies.
Xinjiang, resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, is crucial to China's growing energy needs. Analysts say that much of the proceeds have gone to the Han Chinese, stoking resentment among Uighurs.
The latest sentences were handed out last Wednesday by courts in 11 counties and cities in the Kashgar region, Xinjiang's official Tianshan news website said late on Sunday.
It did not identify the ethnicity of those sentenced, but they had Uighur names.
Those sentenced were accused of crimes such as “being involved in organising, leading and participating in a terrorist organisation, inciting ethnic hatred and ethnic discrimination”, bigamy, drug trafficking, robbery among other crimes, the Tianshan news report said.
China has been on edge since a suicide bombing last month killed 39 people at a market in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi. In March, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming.
There is now a “competitive race” among various areas to arrest and sentence Uighurs, Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, the largest group of exiled Uighurs, said in an email.
“Uighurs who have revolted and expressed dissatisfaction against China's repression are now accused of terrorism,” Raxit said.
At least 380 people have been detained in the last month in a sweeping crackdown on violence in Xinjiang.
State media last month reported a public mass sentencing, reminiscent of China's revolutionary era rallies, attracting a crowd of 7 000 at a sports stadium in Yining city in the northern prefecture of Yili.
Around 200 people have died in unrest in Xinjiang in the past year or so, the government says, including 13 people shot dead by police in a weekend attack on a police station. - Reuters