Urumqi, Xinjiang province, China
Urumqi, Xinjiang province, China

Chinese courts in the restive western province of Xinjiang have jailed 45 people, including some on terrorism-related and illegal border crossing charges, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

Xinjiang is home to the Uighur ethnic minority, many of whom complain of repression and are the subject of an intense anti-terror crackdown by Beijing.

Officials say several of those who had crossed the border had gathered with others to view Muslim extremist propaganda and were trying to take part in jihad. At least some of them had been captured by Tajikistan police near the border with Afghanistan.

Others were jailed on charges of organizing illegal border crossings.

Xinhua said two of the individuals received life sentences.

Many Uighurs have complained of harsh cultural and religious suppression as well as economic marginalization under Chinese rule, and have increasingly tried to flee the country. China has repeatedly accused Uighurs of joining international terror groups and has attempted to prevent them from leaving.

Following intense pressure by Beijing, Thailand last month returned over 100 Uighurs to China, in a move slammed by many human rights groups.

Suspected Uighurs are transported back to a detent
FILE - Suspected Uighurs are transported back to a detention facility in the town of Songkhla in southern Thailand after visiting women and children at a separate shelter, March 26, 2014.

China denies mistreating the Uighurs, arguing that it has launched a massive campaign of economic development in Xinjiang. It has also launched a massive security crackdown in Xinjiang, which has been plagued by recent violent attacks that Beijing has blamed on Islamic militants.