BEIJING (AP) — China has sentenced 20 people to up to 15 years in jail for terrorist or separatist crimes in the far western region of Xinjiang.
The state-run Xinjiang Daily said Thursday that courts in Aksu, Kashgar and Urumqi had recently heard five cases involving the 20 people, who were found to have used the Internet and removable storage devices to organize, lead and participate in terrorist groups.
The courts said the people advocated violence and separatism and that four of them made illegal explosives, Xinjiang Daily reported.
Xinjiang is home to a large population of minority Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs), but is ruled by China's ethnic majority Hans. It has been the scene of numerous violent incidents in recent years, including ethnic riots in Urumqi in 2009 which left nearly 200 people dead.
The newspaper only named five people, all of whom had Uighur names.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, said in a written statement that the accused were using the Internet to obtain government-controlled information and to express different political views. He said the terrorist charges and verdicts were politically motivated.
Beijing has been clamping down on dissent in Xinjiang. It blames the East Turkistan Muslim Movement for unrest in Xinjiang, but critics have pointed to Beijing's heavy rule for the tensions.