Urumqi (AsiaNews) - Police in the Chinese province of Xinjiang have
arrested 139 people, all ethnic Uyghurs, for allegedly
spreading jihad, the official China
Daily reported. The wave of arrests began in late August and concerned people
who used the Internet "inappropriately". A
farmer in Hotan was detained after he uploaded e-books
Beijing confirmed the arrests, pointing to violent
incidents in the region to indicate a rising
militant threat among the ethnic minority, as evidenced by the fact that
many Uyghurs, it claims, fought in Syria's civil war and then
returned home to put their militant experience into practice. These
allegations, however, have not been backed by evidence.
Dilshat Rexit, a spokesman for the overseas-based World Uygur Congress,
which Beijing deems a separatist group, said that the claims were a "total
distortion of the truth" aimed at blocking Uyghurs from going online.
Those who were detained had only "expressed discontent with Chinese rule
and systematic repression in the area", he explained. For him, China's goal "is
to suppress Uyghurs' use of the Internet to obtain information and express
different points of view".
Xinjiang province is one of the most turbulent in all of China. It is the
homeland of ethnic Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim people that has always
sought independence from Beijing.
The central government has sent hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese to
the region to try to make them the dominant ethnic group. It has also imposed
serious restrictions on freedom of religion, Muslim practices, the teaching of
the indigenous language and the local culture.
Since 2009, a special system of Chinese police and army control has been
in place, imposed by Beijing after
the riots in which nearly 200 people lost their lives. As a result of
the violence, hundreds of people were detained and dozens were sentenced to
Chinese authorities have blamed the violence on Muslim extremists, but
exiles claim that Beijing is "exaggerating" the threat of Islamic
terrorism to justify the repression against the Uyghur people.