Beijing: Twenty ethnic Uighurs in China`s far western region of Xinjiang have been given sentences including life terms following conviction on charges related to terrorism and separatism, according to Chinese state media reports.
The government-run news portal Tianshan Net said that a Kashgar court yesterday found 19 Uighurs in four groups guilty of spreading multimedia material promoting terrorism. It said one of the groups had also plotted to assassinate local law officers while another had tested bombs.
Tianshan added that another court sentenced one Uighur man to 10 years in prison for spreading online terrorism.
Dilxat Raxit, of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, said the punishments were draconian and an attempt to suppress ethnic Muslim Uighurs.
Dilxat said the men had done innocuous things like listening to Radio Free Asia and forwarding video clips from YouTube, a site not directly accessible in China.
"China has completely deprived the Uighurs of their rights to use the Internet to express different opinions and to obtain information," Dilxat said in a statement.
Tensions have long brewed between Xinjiang`s Turkish Muslim Uighurs and Chinese migrants. The Uighurs complain that Chinese are displacing them in what they consider their homeland, and they chafe at controls on religion.
But Beijing has been wary of terrorist activities in Xinjiang. Tianshan said the men convicted in the Kashgar court were spreading material from the Eastern Turkistan Islamic movement and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, both of which are considered terrorist organisations by Chinese authorities.
It also said the men were illegally engaged in Muslim preaching.