'4 militants killed' in crackdown on Uighurs

BEIJING • Police in the southwestern Chinese border pro-vince of Yunnan have shot dead four militants and found 553 people attempting to flee the country since last year, state media said yesterday, giving more details of efforts to prevent ethnic Uighurs from leaving China.

The report comes as China steps up efforts to bolster its claims that some of the 109 Uighurs deported from Thailand to China last week posed a security threat, amid global concern about their well-being.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority that calls Xinjiang home, have left China in recent years. Many clandestinely cross into South-east Asia before making their way to Turkey.

Rights groups say such migrants are mostly fleeing ethnic violence in Xinjiang and Chinese controls on their religion and culture. Hundreds of people have died in unrest in Xinjiang in the past three years, blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants.

Beijing says many of those fleeing are extremists hoping to join up with other militants in Iraq and Syria. It denies there is any repression in Xinjiang.

In a detailed report on foiled attempts to leave the country since 2014, Yunnan police said they had mounted a "swift and fierce attack" and "shot dead four violent terrorists", according to the official China News Service.

The account did not mention the ethnicity of the suspects, but the language used is typical of how China talks about what it says are Uighur extremists.

Yunnan is a particularly sensitive place because of an attack at a train station in provincial capital Kunming last year in which 31 people were killed. Police shot dead four of the attackers, who were all Uighurs.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline ''4 militants killed' in crackdown on Uighurs'. Print Edition | Subscribe