The Chinese government announced a mass execution of 13 terrorism suspects in northwest Xinjiang province, home to many of the nation’s ethnic Uyghur population. The group was involved in seven difference cases, according to state reports, and the executions follow the arrests of dozens more.
Chinese newspaper Xinhua reported late yesterday that the thirteen were executed as part of a larger campaign to curb terrorism nationwide. Those killed were not identified, and the report added that another three people were sentenced to death for another terror attack.
The attacks, the newspaper added, specifically targeted populated public places. “In one case, three defendants were convicted of organizing and leading terrorists to attack police station, hotel, government office building and other venues, killing 24 police officers and civilians and injuring 23 others at Lukqun Township in Shanshan County of Turpan Prefecture on June 26 last year,” Xinhua noted.
The government of China has launched a high-profile offensive against terrorism since an increase in attacks began in the Uyghur province, many suspected to be the product of separatists in the region. The bombing of a train station in Xinjiang in April in particular triggered a media and law enforcement campaign against terrorism. The attack followed a number of similar public attacks using knives. “The battle to combat violence and terrorism will not allow even a moment of slackness, and decisive actions must be taken to resolutely suppress the terrorists’ rampant momentum,” said President Xi Jinping following that attack.
In May, keeping to their word on decisive action against terrorists, the Chinese government released photos from a mass sentencing of 55 people believed to be terrorists in Xinjiang. Thousands attended the sentencing, where dozens were found guilty of extreme acts of terror.
This latest mass sentencing earned the approval of Xinhua, whose editors, in a column, wrote that the executions were necessary to “mobilize all the people and use all legal weapons to deal a crushing blow.” Experts speaking to Agence France-Presse expressed a growing concern for potential human rights violations stemming from this crackdown, however.
Others expressed concern that the death penalty would not deter potential terrorists who were already willing to stage suicide attacks. “The death penalty may work in those cases where someone is committing a crime and thinking rationally… capital punishment is not going to work against the potential terrorists because these people are already willing to die,” remarked Surya Deva, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong.
China is expected to continue similar crackdowns and announce large attacks on suspected terrorist groups, particularly in Xinjiang, a province close to central Asia and distant both geographically and culturally from Beijing.