An imam who was supportive of Beijing's controversial treatment of minority Uighur Muslims was stabbed to death outside the Xingjiang region's largest mosque.
Local officials and residents said 74-year-old Jume Tahir was attacked early Wednesday at the 600-year-old Id Kah mosque in Kashgar, the regional capital.
Tahir was a member of China's largely ceremonial parliament, the National People's Congress. He frequently criticized what he called "sabotage and secessionist" activities in Xinjiang, where hundreds have been killed in unrest in the past year.
Many Uighurs see the violence as a desperate response to the government's heavy-handed restrictions on Muslim religious life and its perceived preferential treatment toward the Han majority that have flocked to the region.
Beijing denies mistreating Uighurs - a stance that Tahir apparently agreed with. In 2009, he told China's official Xinhua news agency that Muslims' "lawful religious beliefs are fully protected."
The government had not commented on the murder of Tahir, which was first reported by Radio Free Asia. It occurred two days after fighting between a knife-wielding mob and Chinese police killed scores of people outside Kashgar.
The government and exiled Uighur groups have differing accounts of the clashes, as is usually the case with such violence.
The American Uyghur Association said the violence began when police attacked a group of protesters who were angry over religious restrictions during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended this week.
Xinhua said an initial investigation has determined that the mob was a "premeditated terrorist attack."