[JURIST] Chinese officials said Saturday that 21 people who were charged with arson, robbery, and murder after July's violent demonstrations [JURIST news archive] in China's Xinjiang province, will be put on trial. A total of 108 people have so far been charged [China Daily report] as a result of the riots in the city of Urumqi, located in the Uighur Autonomous Region. Chinese prosecutors in Urumqi said they have been slow to start proceedings against more of the indicted because they are trying to build strong cases. Additionally on Saturday, a man was sentenced [Xinhua report] to death and his co-worker was given a lifetime prison sentence, for causing a fight at a toy factory in China's Guangdong Province in June, which left two Uighur workers dead. It is believed that the altercation at the toy factory was the impetus [AFP report] for the Xinjiang riots.
In early July, violence broke out [NYT report] in Urumqi between Han Chinese and Uighur residents. After two days of rioting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for restraint [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 Uighur advocacy groups 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 says that the recent influx of Han Chinese has disenfranchised non-Chinese-speaking Uighurs.