Beijing (AsiaNews) - Arrests and sentences against the Uygur people are part of a Chinese plan to strike at ethnic Uyghurs during Ramadan because they think they are weak, but that is not the case. The international community must force Beijing to stop its repressive policies, said Rebiya Kadeer, exiled Xinjiang Uygur leader about the recent convictions of 20 Uyghurs.
Three courts in Kashgar, Akesu and Xinjiang capital Urumqi handed down the sentences (of up to15 years) after finding the 20 accused guilty of various crimes, some related to "organising terrorist attacks" in the region.
According to the Uygur World Congress, the accusations are a baseless fabrication. Moreover, the accused were not given an opportunity to defend themselves.
A campaign of relentless repression has been underway in Xinjiang, in north-western China, against ethnic Uyghurs. Chinese authorities have imposed a series of restrictions on local Muslims, including on the right to fast during Ramadan and take part in religious activities, Kadeer noted.
Government websites have urged local Communist Party leaders to impose further restrictions on religious activity during the sacred month, not only in relation to fasting but also access to mosques.
Some 9 million Turkic-speaking Uyghur Muslims live in Xinjiang. For years, they have been fighting to obtain autonomy from the Chinese state and stop Chinese repression.
As part of its campaign, the central government has urged local officials to give village chiefs gifts of food to ensure they do not fast during Ramadan.
A spokesperson for German-based Uygur World Congress warned that restrictions will incite "the Uighur people to resist [Chinese rule] even further," as China is using its administration to force Uyghurs to break their fast and eat.