Foreign Policy Blogs

Violence meets violence in China

A state news agency in China confirmed today that nine people have been executed for their role in the rioting that overtook the northern city of Urumqi in July. As reported earlier on this blog, the rioting had a long simmering ethnic component to it that pitted the majority Muslim Uighur population against the growing Han Chinese. While there were many causes to the violence, a lot of it has to do with China’s policies towards ethnic minorities who find themselves being even more politically vulnerable than the mainstream population. The three days of violent rioting in Urumqi brought this issue into the international spotlight.

Though both sides participated, the majority of the violence was blamed on Uighurs. As a result, the security forces focused mainly on Uighurs in the rioting’s aftermath. Though China pledged to apply its justice evenhanded, eight of the nine prisoners convicted in October over the riots had Uighur names. It is unclear whether these nine prisoners are the same that were executed, but it seems likely since the prisoners sentences were confirmed by the Supreme People’s Court which is required for all death sentences.

The news has not received a lot of press coverage so far, perhaps because the confirmation came on the same day Europe is celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany. However it does not speak well for the trend of increasing oppressive policies on the part of the government towards ethnic minorities in China. Thus, while the world marks the anniversary of the end of one struggle against oppression twenty years ago, more than anything this news demonstrates that political and economic oppression can take many forms and have many different outcomes.



Kimberly J. Curtis
Kimberly J. Curtis

Kimberly Curtis has a Master's degree in International Affairs and a Juris Doctor from American University in Washington, DC. She is a co-founder of The Women's Empowerment Institute of Cameroon and has worked for human rights organizations in Rwanda and the United States. You can follow her on Twitter at @curtiskj

Areas of Focus: Transitional justice; Women's rights; Africa

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