China to Execute 5 More for Ethnic Riots

Paramilitary police officers patrol as Uighur men walk by in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, July 13, 2009.
A Chinese court sentenced five more people to death Thursday for murder and other crimes committed during ethnic riots that rocked the western region of Xinjiang in July.

The Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi also sentenced two others to life in prison, said a woman who answered the phone at the media center of the Xinjiang regional government. Like most Chinese officials, she refused to give her name.

China announced in the middle of last month that nine Uighurs had been executed for taking part in the ethnic rioting that left nearly 200 people dead in July.

The official Xinhua News Agency did not immediately give the names or the ethnic background of the latest five to be sentenced to death. Earlier reports on people arrested after the riots in Urumqi - China's worst ethnic violence in decades - said most of the people were Uighurs.

Hundreds of people were rounded up in the wake of the riots, in which Uighurs attacked members of China's Han ethnic majority on July 5, only to face retaliatory attacks two days later. Uighurs are a Turkic Muslim ethnic group linguistically and culturally distinct from the Han and many resent Beijing's heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, their traditional homeland.

China blames the rioting on overseas-based groups agitating for broader rights for Uighurs in Xinjiang. Five months after the violence, Xinjiang remains smothered in heavy security, with Internet access cut and international direct dialing calls blocked.