Police shot dead six people and six more died when explosives they
were carrying detonated in Xinhe county, according to weekend media
reports. Blasts struck a beauty salon and a vegetable market.
Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the Communist Party's seven-man Politburo
Standing Committee, called for action to ensure that religious
practice did not spill over into illegal acts.
His remarks, quoted by the official People's Daily, made no direct
reference to Xinjiang. But China has long objected to unauthorized
activity associated with religious practice by Xinjiang's large
Muslim minority as well as other groups, like Buddhists in restive
Tibet and various underground churches.
"Religious followers must expand consciousness of the state, the law
and citizenship within religious circles so that the faithful
naturally conduct religious activities within the bounds of law and
policy," he said.
The official Xinhua news agency quoted police in Xinjiang as saying
a man identified as Ibrahim Qahar had organized a group of 17 people
to produce the explosives at a rented house.
Police had seized devices, but gave no details of their nature, the
news agency said.
"A man named Ibrahim Qahar had organized illegal religious
activities and spread religious extremism since May last year,"
Five suspects were captured and one policeman was slightly wounded
in the incident after the group rode three motorcycles to set up the
blasts on Friday evening, Xinhua said.
Xinjiang, on the borders of ex-Soviet Central Asia, India and
Pakistan, is home to Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people, many
of whom chafe at restrictions they say authorities impose on their
The government rejects such complaints and insists it offers Uighurs
A spokesman for the main Uighur exile group, the World Uyghur
Congress, had suggested at the weekend that the beauty salon that
was hit by a blast was a front for a brothel that had offended
Uighurs' "traditional lifestyles".
Xinjiang has seen numerous incidents of unrest in recent years,
which the government often blames on the separatist East Turkestan
Islamic Movement (ETIM), although experts and rights groups cast
doubt on its existence as a cohesive group.
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About 100 people, including several policemen, have been killed in
violence since last April, according to state media reports. In
2009, nearly 200 people were killed in the regional capital Urumqi
in rioting between Uighurs and Han Chinese.
Police in Urumqi said on Saturday a well-known, Beijing-based Uighur
economics professor, Ilham Tohti, was being investigated for
promoting Xinjiang's independence and abetting separatists.
Urumqi police have said that Tohti used his classes to laud
attackers in recent militant incidents as "heroes", "inciting the
students to hate the country, hate the government and seek to
Li Fangping, a lawyer who traveled to Urumqi where he believed Tohti
is being held, told Reuters he had not been allowed to see Tohti or
register to defend him.
"It is impossible to communicate with the officials and they are
refusing to answer phone calls. It has been exhausting," Li said.
Li called the accusations "extremely serious" but said formal
charges had not been made.
Tohti's detention in Beijing in mid-January prompted concern from
both the United States and European Union.
He has championed the rights of the Uighur community and has
challenged the government's version of several incidents involving
Uighurs, including what Beijing says was its first major suicide
attack involving people from Xinjiang in Beijing's Tiananmen Square
(Reporting by Michael Martina; editing by Ron Popeski and Robert
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