China Raises Death Toll From Xinjiang Bombs, Riots to 50

The death toll from violence that erupted in China’s turbulent far western region of Xinjiang last weekend was raised to 50 from two, state media reported, saying most of the dead were either killed by suicide bombs or shot by police.

Forty “rioters,” six civilians and four police personnel died when several bombs exploded at places including a farmers’ market, two police stations and a shop in Luntai county at 5 p.m. on Sept. 21, news website Tianshannet reported. Another 54 people were injured, with 32 belonging to the Uighur ethnic minority and 22 Han Chinese, it said, citing the Xinjiang police investigation.

The jump in confirmed casualties comes after Radio Free Asia yesterday reported that the original death toll of two given by authorities was too low, citing interviews with local officials and eyewitnesses.

The violence is the latest in a series of attacks in the region, as well as other parts of the country, that police have blamed on Uighur separatists. The blasts occurred two days before China jailed Ilham Tohti, a Beijing-based scholar from the region, for separatism, sparking an international outcry.

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. Tohti, an economics professor who taught at Minzu University in Beijing, had called for dialogue between Han Chinese leaders and Uighurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority that makes up 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population and which faces severe restrictions on personal and religious freedoms.

‘Illegal Publications’

Separately, China announced a crackdown on illegal publications in the region, targeting religious books and CDs, state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a statement from the National Anti-Pornography and Anti-Illegal Publications Office. The authority will destroy the sources of such paraphernalia to “safeguard social stability and long-term peace” in Xinjiang, Xinhua said.

Tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese, whose presence has grown to make up about 40 percent of Xinjiang’s population, periodically flare in the region. In 2009, 197 people were killed in riots 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.

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