BEIJING – China acknowledged Wednesday that a police officer was killed last week in a bloody clash near the far-western city of Kashgar, the latest in a series of deadly incidents in the Xinjiang region this summer.
As is often the case, it was difficult to confirm details of the incident. A government-run newspaper in Kashgar, which covered the officer's memorial service, said he "courageously died" in a shootout while taking part in a raid on a gang of "terrorists."
Radio Free Asia reported Tuesday that 22 ethnic Uighurs were killed Aug. 20 when security forces opened fire at a house in a suburb of Kashgar.
The area, which lies close to China's borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, has been a frequent site of bloodshed between the dominant ethnic Han Chinese and Uighurs, a Muslim minority.
Local sources verified the Radio Free Asia account to the Los Angeles Times, saying the dead were buried before their families were notified of their deaths. But they provided no further details.
The World Uyghur Congress, a Germany-based advocacy group, says that it has documented a number of deadly incidents since March, some of which were also reported by the official Chinese media. In all, they say 103 to 138 people have been killed and at least 125 arrested.
The last time Xinjiang saw such deadly unrest was in 2009, when nearly 200 people died in rioting in Urumqi, the capital of the region.
The Chinese authorities frequently blame outbreaks of violence in the region on Islamic separatists. Human rights groups accuse them of exaggerating the threat to subdue the Uighur community.
Uighurs, who were the majority in the region before an influx of Han Chinese settlers in recent years, complain that their culture is being eradicated and that unreasonable restrictions prevent them from practicing their religion.