Blasts Kill Two in China’s Xinjiang as Tohti Verdict Due

At least two people were killed and dozens injured by a series of blasts in China’s Xinjiang province, state media reported, ahead of a verdict in the trial of Ilham Tohti, a scholar from the region.

Several explosions rocked the county of Luntai at 5 p.m. yesterday, news website Tianshannet reported, and six people were detained by police, said the website controlled by the government of Xinjiang in northwest China. It’s the latest in a series of attacks across the country that police have blamed on ethnic minority Uighur separatists.

President Xi Jinping is overseeing a nationwide crackdown against alleged Uighur terrorists, which has included several shootouts, mass arrests and a stadium trial at which people were sentenced to death. The verdict is expected this week in the trial of Tohti, an economics professor who taught at Minzu University in Beijing, for allegedly promoting separatism in Xinjiang, where about 45 percent of the population are Uighurs.

Tohti ran a website called Uighur Online which carried discussions of China’s Xinjiang policies, where Uighurs face restrictions on their personal and religious freedoms. He has been in custody since January and was charged in July with “splitting the country.”

Tohti is prepared for the worst as he faces a possible life sentence, Li Fangping, his lawyer, said last week.

China has also demoted the party secretary of Shache county, He Limin, for being responsible for clashes in Xinjiang on July 28 and the death of Imam Jume Tahir on July 30, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a decision of the Xinjiang Communist Party committee. Those clashes left 37 dead and 94 injured, Xinhua said. In total 17 officials and police officers were penalized.

Ethnic Clashes

Tensions between the Uighurs and the Han Chinese population periodically flare up in Xinjiang. In 2009, 197 people were killed in riots in the region that left more than 1,700 injured, according to state-run media.

In March, knife-wielding assailants killed 29 people at a train station in the southern city of Kunming, for which three Uighurs were sentenced to death this month. In June, three others were sentenced to death for planning a fatal car crash near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that killed two tourists.

China’s response to the unrest has been to tighten security, promote economic development in the province, and encourage more Han Chinese to move there, according to Felix Chang, a senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Indonesia Arrests

“The biggest beneficiaries of Xinjiang’s economic growth turned out to be the Han Chinese migrants, not the native Uighurs,” Chang wrote in a Sept. 17 report. “That left the Uighurs feeling not only relatively poorer, but also brushed aside by the influx of Han Chinese. Meanwhile, tighter security meant that Chinese police and security forces had been set on a hair trigger to react to any suspicion of Uighur unrest.”

In Indonesia last week, police arrested four Uighur-speaking foreigners with fake passports suspected of involvement with an Islamic militant group.

The four men were detained along with three Indonesians near Poso on Sulawesi island in the archipelago’s east after trying to flee into the mountains, according to national police chief Sutarman, who goes by one name. They came to Southeast Asia from Turkey and aimed to join the local group led by wanted terrorist Santoso, potentially to train and carry out attacks, Sutarman said late yesterday in Jakarta.

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