07/20/2011, 00.00
CHINA

Beijing admits: at least 18 dead in Xinjiang

Rise in number of "official" victims in yesterday’s clashes in Hotan between police and a group of ethnic Uyghur residents. However, the government continues to talk about "terrorism".
Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Chinese government this morning made a u-turn on yesterday's clashes that rocked the northern province of Xinjiang and has admitted that the death toll is "at least 18", 14 "violent offenders", 2 police and officers 2 hostages. However, Beijing continues to define the fighting as "terrorism", while for the World Uighur Congress - the non-governmental organization that follows the situation of ethnic group, the once dominant majority in the province - it was a massacre orchestrated by the police.

Chinese police opened fire on a group of Uyghur demonstrators who, in the desert town of Hotan, protested against the forced confiscation of their lands and indiscriminate arrests against members of the ethnic group, one of the most feared by Beijing. According to a report published today by the provincial government, however, "a group of terrorists armed with explosives and axes tried to set fire to the local police station."

Clashes in the province are a regular occurrence, but yesterday was the worst last year. Beijing needs stability in the area, rich in raw materials and in order to obtain this has promoted a massive immigration of Han, the dominant ethnic group in the country. The Uyghurs, the region's Muslim Turkic-speaking indigenous constitute less than half the population, after decades of immigration from other areas of the People's Republic.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Congress, complains: "China has strengthened repression and control over the population, and this has greatly worsened the situation. Beijing uses brute force to suppress any protest by Uyghurs, even the most peaceful. "
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