China judge calls for crackdown on extremism in Xinjiang

China judge calls for crackdown on extremism in Xinjiang
This picture taken on May 20, 2014 shows Chinese security personnel guarding a checkpoint along one of the highways leading into Beijing.

CHINA - Tough measures are needed to curb the spread of religious extremism via multimedia platforms in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, an official from the Xinjiang High People's Court said on Wednesday.

Such extremism can lead to terrorist activities and seriously threaten social stability, said Aniwar Abudulreyim, presiding judge of the first criminal court of the region's high court.

"The contents of religious extremism related to video and audio twist the doctrine of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, and promote 'holy war', which aims to carry out terrorist attacks. We've even seen suspects publishing footage of women and children participating in terrorist training to encourage them to join terrorist cells," he said.

Some of the extremist audiovisual files include information that instigates ethnic hatred and teaches others how to carry out terrorist attacks as well as make weapons, he said.

Thirty-nine people in the region have been found guilty of crimes that include spreading religious extremism or terrorism via mobile devices or the Internet, the court said on Wednesday at a news conference in Urumqi, the region's capital.

The criminals face up to 15 years' imprisonment.

The convicts involved in 16 cases were tried in six prefectures, including southern Xinjiang's Aksu and Hotan, on Tuesday. They were convicted of charges of organising, leading and participating in terrorist groups, instigating ethnic hatred and illegally producing guns.

"I want to clarify that those who join terrorist groups without knowing their nature and withdraw from the organisations immediately after they find out the truth will not be considered as participating in terrorist groups. Meanwhile, those who continue to stay in the groups despite realizing their extreme intentions will be punished under the law," Aniwar said.

The trials came less than two months after the regional authorities, including the high court, people's procuratorate and public security bureau, jointly issued a warning to people that editing, broadcasting or keeping audio or video files that incite violence and terrorism will be punished under the law.

The authorities also listed the means of transmission of these illegal products as websites, micro-blog accounts, voice-chat rooms, popular online social networking tool QQ, and mobile social-media applications such as WeChat. The transportation or mailing of such material is also forbidden.

Since the announcement was published, public security forces in Xinjiang have handled more than 226 cases in which the Internet or cellphones were used to carry out crimes involving religious extremism. About 232 people have been charged or investigated.

Zhang Chunxian, top leader of the region, said in March that social media and the Internet have become another battleground in its fight against terrorism.

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