Beijing: China convicted and sentenced more than 700 people for instigating separatism and terrorism last year, mainly in the Muslim-dominated volatile Xinjiang region where militants linked with al-Qaeda have carried out attacks.
The Supreme People's Court today said that 712 people were sentenced for instigating secessionist activities and participating in violent terrorist attacks, a jump of 13.3 per cent year-on-year.
In a report to the National People's Congress, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang said that those convicted were involved in 558 cases, up 14.8 per cent.
Graphics included in the report showed that the incidents registered a 40.7-per cent rise in the number of criminal cases which involved instigation of secessionist activities in 2014. It, however, did not provide details.
Violent attacks have been on the rise in recent years in the remote Xinjiang region, home to the mostly Muslim Uygur minority. Al-Qaeda backed East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) advocates the secession of Xinjiang region from China.
A number of youths, stated to be from the minority community who allegedly took part in terror attacks, have been executed.
ETIM has been active in Xinjiang, where local Uygur Muslims are up in arms against Han settlers from mainland China. More than 450 people were reportedly killed in Xinjiang last year.
In Tibet, China has launched a crackdown in recent years to curb the incidents of self-immolation by the supporters of the Dalai Lama, calling for his return from exile.
Over 120 people died in recent years in various incidents, according to the overseas Tibetan groups. Police have arrested several Tibetans including monks on charges of secession for "instigating" such protests.
Overall, courts in China concluded some 1.02 million first trials in criminal cases last year and convicted 1.18 million people, up 7.2 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively, said the Supreme court report.
"We will actively participate in the fight against terrorism and secessionism, severely punish violent terrorist crimes according to the law, and severely punish all types of crimes that gravely endanger the safety of the people," Zhou said.
"We will resolutely safeguard national security, ethnic unity and social stability," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Zhou as saying.
An assault on a market in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi in May last year killed more than 30 people and injured 94 others, prompting a year-long campaign against terrorism.
Terrorist attacks have also spread to other parts of the country. On March 1 last year, knife-wielding assailants killed a total of 31 people and injured 141 others at a train station in Yunnan' s provincial capital Kunming.