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55 Convicted In Public Trial In China's Northwest

Trucks packed with criminals and suspects at a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, in Xinjiang province, on Tuesday. i i

Trucks packed with criminals and suspects at a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, in Xinjiang province, on Tuesday. China Stringer Network/Reuters/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption China Stringer Network/Reuters/Landov
Trucks packed with criminals and suspects at a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, in Xinjiang province, on Tuesday.

Trucks packed with criminals and suspects at a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, in Xinjiang province, on Tuesday.

China Stringer Network/Reuters/Landov

In a mass trial before thousands of onlookers at a sports stadium, authorities in China's northwestern Xinjiang province convicted and sentenced 55 people on charges of terrorism, separatism and murder, state media report.

The scene, reminiscent of the communist Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and '70s, took place before a crowd of 7,000 spectators. All of the defendants appeared to be from the region's Muslim Uighur community, the BBC says.

Prisoners, heads bowed, wore orange vests and stood in the backs of vehicles surrounded by armed guards, the BBC says.

Three defendants were given death sentences.

Since the mid-2000s, the Uighur separatists have stepped up a violent campaign against Beijing.

The Associated Press says the public trial was "a show of force in Xinjiang after 43 people were killed last week in an attack at a vegetable market in the regional capital, Urumqi."

The AP says:

"Such sentencing rallies — designed to humiliate the accused and feed a public thirst for retribution — were formerly common across China, but have in recent years been mostly restricted to Xinjiang and the neighboring restive region of Tibet.

"That appears to speak to a separate brand of justice carried out against government critics and others accused of crimes who hail from minority ethnic groups, underscored by the announcement last week of a special one-year security crackdown in Xinjiang focusing on suspected terrorists, religious extremist groups, illegal weapons makers and terrorist training camps."

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