[JURIST] A Chinese court Tuesday sentenced four more people to death in connection with the July Xinjiang riots [JURIST news archive]. The Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi sentenced eight others to life in prison and one to the death penalty with a two-year reprieve, which is usually commuted to life in prison. To date, at least 26 people have received death sentences for their roles in the riots. In November, the Chinese government carried out the executions [JURIST report] of nine others convicted in connection with the riots for murder, assault, arson, and robbery, after a review by the Supreme People's Court [official website, in Chinese] upheld their sentences.
The actions of the Chinese government in the aftermath of the riots have been heavily criticized [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. HRW has stated that the trials of the suspected rioters have been marred by infringements on due process and political considerations. Additionally, HRW reported [JURIST report] that more than 40 Uighurs had disappeared while in the custody of Chinese authorities after large-scale sweeps by police. Residents of the region claim that the majority of the deaths were at the hands of Chinese authorities, but Chinese state media has reported [Xinhua report] that most of the deaths were due to protesters. The Chinese government has admitted that police were responsible for 12 of the deaths [JURIST report]. The Muslim Uighur population 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. Violence broke out July 5, after Uighurs attacked Han Chinese during protests ignited by an attack at a factory in southern China that left two Uighurs dead.