China’s top judge says the country saw a double-digit increase in the number of terrorism and separatism cases last year, and that more than 700 individuals were convicted.
In an annual report to the National People’s Congress, Zhou Qiang, the chief justice of China’s Supreme People’s Court said Chinese courts carried out prosecutions for 558 cases last year. He said the number of cases increased by about 15 percent for terrorism charges and a little more than 13 percent for separatism.
Zhou did not say where the majority of the trials took place or give a break down of the number of cases for terrorism or separatism, but China did see a sharp increase in violent attacks in its remote and restive region of Xinjiang last year.
Xinjiang has long been troubled by ethnic tensions between its Uighur Muslim group and the country’s Han majority.
Rights activists and exiled Uighur groups say it is the government’s repressive cultural and religious policies there that are fueling the unrest, but China says the spread of religious extremism is to blame. Earlier this week, a top communist party official in Xinjiang warned that some extremists have even traveled overseas to join the Islamic State and recently returned home.
Xinjiang has typically led the rest of the nation in convictions related to crimes labeled as endangering state security. A broad grouping that includes crimes such as separatism, subversion and terrorism among others.
According to Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights advocacy group based in the United States, its own estimates and an annual Xinjiang report on court cases shows that while the number of cases of endangering state security in Xinjiang stayed flat at about 300, the number of criminal trials increased by 40 percent to more than 29,000.