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Chinese Security Efforts Questioned Two Years After Xinjiang Riots

Uighur protesters march through the street in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province (2009 File)

Uighur protesters march through the street in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province (2009 File)

Chinese state media are questioning whether security forces have gone too far in cracking down on dissidents in western Xinjiang province two years after deadly riots that killed nearly 200 people.

In an article marking the anniversary of the riots Tuesday, the Communist Party-controlled Global Times newspaper quotes a law professor saying the region is "over-emphasizing stability preservation" and could be fueling increased tensions.

The article says life has largely returned to normal in Urumqi, the provincial capital. But it notes authorities have doubled the region's security budget and installed about 40,000 security cameras.

London-based Amnesty International, meanwhile, is marking the anniversary with a report charging that China is still silencing critics who point out government excesses during and after the riots. It notes that managers of ethnic Uighur websites have been jailed for talking to foreign media as Uighurs have become a minority in their own homeland.

The rights group says hundreds of people were prosecuted after the riots, which began with a protest in Urumqi on July 5, 2009, sparked by the death of a Uighur factory worker in southern China. About two dozen have been sentenced to death or executed and others were given long jail terms.

Amnesty says China is still "muzzling people who speak out" about the riots, noting the forcible return to China of an asylum seeker in Kazakhstan who had described the torture and death in custody of a young Uighur man after the protests.

Amnesty said the Beijing government must "listen to the grievances of the Uighur community and address their demands to have their rights respected and their culture protected."

The Global Times quotes Peking University professor He Weifang saying it is "understandable" that authorities place a high value on stability in a "complex" place like Xinjiang. But he says, if the government goes too far "it might misread some message and overact. In this case, it might fuel tension between Han and Uighur people."