October 18, 2005

China arrests foreign militants in restive west

By Emma Graham-Harrison

URUMQI, China (Reuters) - China has arrested 19 foreigners
on terrorism charges in its restive northwestern region of
Xinjiang and told the children of a freed dissident they cannot
go abroad, a regional leader said on Tuesday.

Beijing has waged a relentless campaign against militants
from Xinjiang's Uighur minority who have struggled for decades
to make the region an independent state called East Turkestan
and whom China has labeled foreign-backed terrorists.

"This year, we have arrested 19 people from abroad who were
sent to Xinjiang for violent sabotage," Xinjiang Communist
Party Secretary Wang Lequan told reporters at a news conference
in the region's capital, Urumqi.

"When they entered the territory of Xinjiang, we
immediately caught them," Wang said without elaborating.

In August, China charged Uighur dissident Rebiya Kadeer,
now living in exile in the United States, with conspiring to
sabotage celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the
Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region on October 1. She was also
charged with evading taxes, committing fraud and running up
heavy debts.

The government had told Kadeer's children they could not
leave the country until the family's debts were paid, Wang

"We asked them not to leave the country before the present
issue is resolved because if they settle outside China, who
shall return their evaded taxes?" he said.

China freed businesswoman Kadeer in March, after almost six
years in jail for providing state secrets abroad, just ahead of
a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In May, Washington raised concerns about the safety of
Kadeer's friends and family when a rights group said police had
detained and beaten some of her associates and tried to arrest
her son.

"We haven't put any limits on their (her children's')
personal freedom," Wang said.

Many of the Turkic-speaking Uighurs favor greater autonomy
from Beijing and complain of inequities under rule by Han

Wang acknowledged there was an ethnic income gap in
Xinjiang, where Uighurs made up 45 to 46 percent of the
population and Han around 38 percent.

"That Uighurs' incomes are lower than Hans' incomes is
true," he said.

The party secretary, who sits on China's all-powerful
politburo, also confirmed that Mutalifu Yusufu, former mayor of
the Xinjiang city of Korla, killed himself in late September
while under investigation for corruption.

Yusufu, his wife and other relatives, skimmed millions of
yuan in a chemical fertilizer scam, Wang said, noting a
"complete conclusion" on the case had yet to be made.

"There is one thing for sure, he was involved in his wife's
corruption and then committed suicide," he said.