The Uighurs are Muslims. They regard themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.In the early part of the 20th Century, the Uighurs briefly declared independence. The region was brought under the complete control of communist China in 1949.Activists say central government policies have gradually curtailed the Uighurs’ religious, commercial and cultural activities.
Beijing is accused of intensifying a crackdown after street protests in Xinjiang in the 1990s, and again in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Over the past decade, many prominent Uighurs have been imprisoned or have sought asylum abroad after being accused of terrorism. Mass immigration of Han Chinese to Xinjiang had made Uighurs a minority in Xinjiang.China’s central government says Uighur militants are waging a violent campaign for an independent state by plotting bombings, sabotage and civic unrest.
Since the 9/11 attacks in the US, China has increasingly portrayed its Uighur separatists as auxiliaries of al-Qaeda, saying they have received training in Afghanistan. Little evidence has been produced in support of these claims.
The authorities blame Xinjiang separatists based outside China for the unrest, and they singled out exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, saying she incited the violence. She denied any responsibility for the violence.
Uighur exiles say police fired indiscriminately on peaceful protests, leading to violence and deaths.Beijing has been cracking down on the Uyghur community for a long time.
The Uyghurs are a Muslim minority that lives in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. The population speaks a Turkish dialect and considers itself much closer to the tradition of Central Asia than China.