[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Tuesday called for restraint [press release] from all sides and a respect for due process in the ethnic unrest in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region [official website], in which the Chinese government says 156 were killed and more than 800 wounded on Sunday. Expressing her condolences to the victims of a "great tragedy," Pillay called the figures "extraordinarily high" and urged "Uighur and Han civic leaders, and the Chinese authorities at all levels, to exercise great restraint so as not to spark further violence and loss of life." Recognizing the government's responsibility to maintain order, Pillay noted that "it is vital that the authorities only resort to lethal force when it is strictly unavoidable in order to protect life" and that both Chinese law and international human rights norms require due process for the accused, including humane treatment, fair trials and proportionate sentences.
Pillay's remarks come two days after violence broke out [NYT report] between Han Chinese and Uighur residents of Xinjiang's capital Urumqi. The government says [Xinhua report] that the majority of those killed in the violence were Han residents killed by protesters, although the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur American Association [advocacy websites] say that many protesters were killed by authorities but not included in the official death toll. The Uighur population, which is Muslim, is opposed [BBC backgrounder] to China's restrictive bans on religious practice, and say that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised the non-Chinese speaking Uighur population.