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Amnesty International: China Unfairly Detained Muslims

A new report by Amnesty International says China has unfairly rounded up thousands of Muslims in its far western Xinjiang region under the guise of fighting terrorism. The crackdown intensified after September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Amnesty International accuses Chinese officials of detaining possibly thousands of people in Xinjiang who have done "little more than practice their religion or defend their culture."

Muslim Uighurs form the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang and they differ in faith, language and ethnicity from the Han Chinese who rule the restive region and the rest of China.

Chinese officials claim independence-minded Uighur groups are linked to Osama bin Laden's terror network and blames them for bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and other violent acts over the past decade.

But the 33-page Amnesty report released Friday says China has not provided convincing evidence to back these claims. It says the number of violent acts by Uighur activists is limited, their impact small, and the Chinese government's repressive campaign goes far beyond what is needed to track down the small number of people who have committed violent acts.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue calls the Amnesty International report "fabricated." Ms. Zhang says "Amnesty's allegations are groundless," and told reporters "human rights are the best they have been in China's history."

However, the Amnesty report echoes concerns expressed by other human rights groups, including U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. Some of these groups accuse China of using the war on terrorism as a pretext to crush peaceful dissent in a strategic border area. Xinjiang is on China's western frontier, and it shares a border with Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations.