BEIJING – A call by China’s top prosecutor for swifter trials of “terrorists, religious extremists and makers of firearms and explosives” in the troubled region of Xinjiang threatens to fuel abuse of suspects’ rights, a human rights group said Friday.
As China cracks down harshly on extremist groups in the wake of attacks in the resource-rich region bordering central Asia, state media Thursday reported the country’s top prosecutor as urging that such cases be “fast-tracked.”
But rights activists say Chinese authorities extend very little leeway to the accused in politicized cases, including terrorism cases, and hastening such trials opens the door to more abuses.
“Whatever minimum checks the procuratorate might have on police might be left off,” said Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch. “There is so little information coming out of Xinjiang on how suspects are treated. The potential for abuse is great.”
Proceedings in these cases are already speedy, with state television broadcasting images of mass trials held in outdoor arenas in Xinjiang as hundreds of people watched defendants being convicted.
Prosecutors must prioritize defending China against the “three evil forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said in comments carried late Thursday by the official Xinhua News Agency.
Courts in violence-plagued Xinjiang must work especially hard to “speed up trials of terror cases and deliver exemplary penalties,” it said, while urging that the cases be handled without discrimination, and that justice be tempered with mercy.
Courts in China answer to Communist Party authorities and are not independent. The vast majority of criminal trials result in a guilty verdict.
Far western Xinjiang is home to the ethnic Uighur minority, separatists among whom China has blamed for the series of deadly attacks. But exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say repressive government policies in Xinjiang have provoked unrest.
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