There are long-festering grievances among the Uyghur people
The Tinanmen incident occurred on October 28
There has been a crackdown against terror in Xinjiang
Eight people in China have been indicted for their roles in an attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in October, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Saturday, citing local authorities.
Authorities in the restive Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China accused the suspects of organizing, leading and participating as a terrorist group and endangering public security. The people were indicted Friday.
The eight are to stand trial in Urumqi, the capital of the region, where Chinese authorities have cracked down on violence involving Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim ethnic group.
The Tiananmen incident occurred October 28, when a vehicle drove through security barriers into a crowd in the square. It crashed into a pedestrian bridge in front of the Forbidden City and burst into flames. The attack killed five people, including three in the vehicle, and wounded 40 others.
Not along after that attack, one Islamic militant group called the strike a “jihadi operation” and warned of more violence to come.
In a speech posted online, Abdullah Mansour, the leader of the Turkestan Islamic Party, said those who carried out the attack were “mujahideen,” the SITE Intelligence group said in a report. East Turkestan is the name used by many Uyghur groups to refer to Xinjiang.
Chinese authorities accuse Uyghurs of carrying out the Beijing attack and have cranked up efforts to thwart violence after two recent high-profile strikes in the Xinjiang region.
Twenty-nine people were killed and 130 injured when men armed with long knives stormed a train station in Kunming in March. The following month, an attack on a train station in Urumqi left three dead, including the attackers, and an attack on an Urumqi market this month killed at least 39.
In response, police in Xinjiang launched a crackdown on extremist groups, arresting 200 suspects and seizing hundreds of explosive devices, Chinese state media reported this week. The state’s anti-terrorist force has been beefed up in Xinjiang and security tightened across the country.
On Wednesday, a Chinese court sentenced 55 people on terrorism charges before thousands of onlookers in a stadium in Xinjiang. The trial was held in a stadium in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture before about 7,000 spectators, according to reports.
The accused were found guilty by the Higher People’s Court of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of charges including intentional homicide, separatism and organizing, leading and participating in terrorist activities.
Some Uyghurs have expressed resentment toward China’s Han majority in recent years over what they say is harsh treatment from Chinese security forces and Han people taking the lion’s share of economic opportunities in Xinjiang.
Uyghurs are said to have faced widespread discrimination, including in employment, housing and educational opportunities, as well as curtailed religious freedom and political marginalization.
CNN’s Jethro Mullen and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.