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China authorities to charge 83 in Xinjiang riots

[JURIST] Authorities in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on Tuesday announced [Xinhua report] charges of murder, intentional injury, arson, and robbery against 83 people accused of participating in violent demonstrations in the capital city of Urumqi in early July. Xinjiang Prosecutor Utiku'er Abudrehman said that 718 people, both Han Chinese and ethnic minority Uighur, are currently detained [Xinhua report] in connection with the riots as a result of police investigations of damaged stores, homes, and vehicles, as well as photographs and videos of the riots. Dilxat Raxit, a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) [advocacy website] has accused [AP report] the government of intentionally under-reporting the number of people who have been arrested following the riots. The Uyghur American Association (UAA) [advocacy website] said that it is "extremely concerned" [press release] about the credibility of charges against some Uighur leaders included in a government-published "most wanted" list, and about the government's ability to carry out fair trials amidst political tension in the region.

In July, violence broke out [NYT report] between Han Chinese and Uighur residents in Xinjiang's regional capital. After two days of rioting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for restraint [press release; JURIST report] from all sides and a respect for due process in arrests and prosecutions. The Chinese government claims [Xinhua report] that the majority of the 197 killed and 1,600 injured in the violence were Han residents killed by protesters, although the WUC and the UAA maintain that many protesters were killed by authorities but not included in the official death toll. Chinese officials have acknowledged [JURIST report] that 12 protesters were killed by police. 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 non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.

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