China: Two ex-govt officials in Xinjiang sentenced to death over separatism charges

Beijing: Two former government officials in the Xinjiang region have been sentenced to death on charges of separatism, as China continues its crackdown and rights violations in the region despite international outcry.

Wang Langtao, the vice president of Xinjiang’s higher people’s court, told reporters Tuesday that Sattar Sawut and Shirzat Bawudun have been sentenced to death, VOA news reported. Such sentences are usually commuted to life imprisonment.

Sattar Sawut, a former education official, has been convicted of incorporating ethnic separatism violence, terrorism and religious extremism into Uyghur-language school textbooks.

Shirzat Bawudun, a former head of Xinjiang’s regional justice department, has been convicted of colluding with members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has been listed as a terrorist group by the United Nations, as well as carrying out “illegal religious activities at his daughter’s wedding.”

China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.

Beijing, on the other hand, has vehemently denied that it is engaged in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. 

The Biden administration last week declared Chinese actions against the Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang as ‘genocide’.

In a 2020 report on Human rights practices: China released on last Tuesday, the US Department of State said: “Genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang”.

Former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo first officially declared genocide in Xinjiang during the waning days of the Donald Trump administration. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed Pompeo’s assessment during his confirmation hearing, but the word’s inclusion into Tuesday’s report formalizes the outlook as an official US government assessment, Washington Post reported.