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China has expelled French journalist Ursula Gauthier over an article she wrote that was critical of Beijing’s policy towards Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Beijing confirmed it would not renew press credentials for Ursula Gauthier, of the French news magazine L’Obs.

It said an article Ursula Gauthier wrote about the unrest in Xinjiang supported “terrorism and cruel acts” that had killed people.

Ursula Gauthier called the claims “absurd” and said Beijing was trying to deter foreign reporters in the country.

If her press card is not renewed, Ursula Gauthier cannot apply for a new visa, and will have to leave China by December 31.

Ursula Gauthier would be the first foreign journalist to be expelled since al-Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan in 2012.

Photo AP

Photo AP

China blames the long-running unrest in western autonomous Xinjiang region on Islamist separatists, many of whom it says have foreign ties.


However, Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim, say Beijing’s repression of their religious and cultural customs is provoking the violence.

Ursula Gauthier published her article after the attacks in Paris in November, suggesting China’s solidarity with France might have an ulterior motive – to justify its own crackdowns in Xinjiang.

The article triggered condemnation from the Chinese government and state media, which demanded an apology and retraction from her.

China’s foreign ministry confirmed on December 26 it would not renew Ursula Gauthier’s press card, saying she had failed to make a “serious apology” to the Chinese people and was no longer “suitable” to continue working in the country.

“China will never support the freedom to champion terrorism,” the ministry said.

The foreign ministry complained of what bit termed a double standard, whereby tough action in the West was called anti-terrorism but in China was described as the repression of ethnic minorities.

Two Malaysians and one Pakistani have been arrested in Malaysia in connection with last month’s deadly bombing at the Erawan shrine in Bangkok, Thailand.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said they were detained a few days ago and were assisting with the investigation.

Thailand has launched a manhunt for those responsible for the bombing which killed 20 people and injured 120 on August 17.

Thai police have arrested two people and are searching for a third man, said to be from China’s Xinjiang region.

Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters on September 14 that the three suspects are a Pakistani man, a Malaysian man, and a Malaysian woman, who were arrested based on a tip-off from Thai authorities.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

He said the suspects would not yet be transferred to Thailand, as Malaysian police are still investigating. He did not give further details on the reason for their detention.

No group has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack at the Erawan shrine, but Thailand has alleged that a network which includes foreigners was behind the bombing.

Over the weekend, Thailand issued an arrest warrant for a 27-year-old Muslim man called Abudusataer Abudureheman, also known as Ishan, from Xinjiang.

Abudusataer Abudureheman is reported to have left Bangkok for Bangladesh one day before the bomb blast, and is believed by police to have played a prominent role in the attack.

Thai authorities have already arrested two other suspects: Adem Karadag, whose nationality has yet to be verified, and Yusufu Meraili, who officials say is a Chinese national born in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang is home to a significant number of Uighur Muslims, and Chinese authorities have faced criticism for the perceived harsh restrictions placed on religion and culture in the region.

Thailand recently found itself in the spotlight following its forced repatriation of more than 100 Uighurs to China.

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Several government departments in Chinese region of Xinjiang have banned Muslim staff from fasting during the month of Ramadan.

One department website said that civil servants cannot “take part in fasting and other religious activities”.

The move comes amid tightened security in the region which has been hit by a growing number of violent attacks.

Authorities blame separatist Muslim Uighurs, but Uighur leaders deny they are behind the attacks.

China restricted Ramadan fasting for Xinjiang’s officials

China restricted Ramadan fasting for Xinjiang’s officials

Activists have accused Beijing of exaggerating the threat from Uighur separatists to justify a crackdown on the Uighurs’ religious and cultural freedoms.

State-administered Bozhou Radio and TV University said on its website that the fasting ban applied to party members, teachers and young people.

“We remind everyone that they are not permitted to observe a Ramadan fast,” it said.

Similarly a weather bureau in western Xinjiang was reported by the AFP news agency to have said on its website that the ban was “in accordance with instructions from higher authorities”.

With Beijing blaming extremist Uighurs for growing violence, the ban is likely to be seen by many Muslims as an attack on their religion, further increasing tensions.

Among those imposing a ban are a commercial affairs department and a government hospital which got Muslim staff to sign a written pledge that they would not fast.

State-run newspapers have in addition been running editorials warning about the health dangers of fasting.

Many Uighurs say that the suppression of their cultural and religious freedoms is fuelling the unrest in the region and attacks elsewhere in China.

Last month 13 assailants were killed in an attack on a police station in the restive province.

Police officers have killed 13 assailants in an attack on a police station in China’s restive western province of Xinjiang, officials say.

The attackers drove a car into the station and set off explosives on Saturday morning, the local government said on its website.

Police officers have killed 13 assailants in an attack on a police station in China's restive western province of Xinjiang

Police officers have killed 13 assailants in an attack on a police station in China’s restive western province of Xinjiang

Three police suffered minor injuries but no civilians were hurt, it added.

The Chinese authorities blame Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang for an increasing number of attacks in the province.

“On the morning of June 21, a group of thugs drove a car into a police building in Yecheng County, Kashgar province and detonated explosives,” the local government website said.

“Police shot dead the 13 attackers,” it reported. It provided no further details.

Verifying reports from the Xinjiang region is difficult because access for journalists is restricted and the flow of information is tightly controlled.

The authorities have tightened security in Xinjiang in recent months.

On Monday, China executed 13 people in Xinjiang for what it called “terrorist attacks”.

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Thirteen people have been executed for “terrorist attacks” in Xinjiang province, western China, state media say.

The 13 – who reportedly include Muslim ethnic Uighurs – were accused over seven cases including attacks in June 2013 that killed 24 people.

It comes as three other men – who reports say also appear to be Uighurs – were sentenced over a fatal car crash in Beijing last year.

Beijing has blamed Uighur groups for several attacks across the country.

Those executed on Monday had been charged with crimes including “participating in terrorist groups; murder; arson; theft; and illegal manufacture, storage and transportation of explosives”, state-run news agency Xinhua said.

Thirteen people have been executed for terrorist attacks in Xinjiang province

Thirteen people have been executed for terrorist attacks in Xinjiang province

The report named three defendants who were convicted of attacking a police station, hotel, government building and other venues in Lukqun, Xinjiang province, on June 26.

The attack killed 24 police officers and civilians and injured 23 others, Xinhua added.

Verifying reports from the Xinjiang region is difficult because the flow of information is tightly controlled.

Also on Monday, three men were given death sentences in connection with a crash in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last October, when a car ploughed into a crowd.

Two tourists and three people in the car were killed. Dozens of others were injured.

Xinhua news agency said Husanjan Wuxur, Yusup Umarniyaz and Yusup Ahmat were guilty of “organizing and leading a terrorist group and endangering public security”.

Five others were given jail sentences.

Reports said several of those sentenced or executed on Monday appeared to be from Xinjiang’s Uighur ethnic minority, based on their names.

Beijing has blamed Uighur separatists for a string of attacks around China, including deadly bomb and knife attacks on railway stations in Urumqi in Xinjiang, and Kunming in south-west China.

Uighur leaders deny that they are coordinating a terrorist campaign.

Activists have accused Beijing of exaggerating the threat from Uighur separatists in order to justify a crackdown on the Uighurs’ religious and cultural freedoms.

Correspondents say Uighurs, who number around 9 million, have long complained of repression under Chinese rule – an accusation Beijing denies.

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At least 31 people have been killed in Xinjiang region’s capital, Urumqi, after attackers crashed two cars into shoppers at a market, Chinese media reports say.

They also threw explosives during the attack in the regional capital Urumqi. More than 90 people were injured, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The Ministry of Public Security called it a “violent terrorist incident”.

At least 31 people have been killed in Xinjiang region's capital, Urumqi, after attackers crashed two cars into shoppers at a market

At least 31 people have been killed in Xinjiang region’s capital, Urumqi, after attackers crashed two cars into shoppers at a market (AP)

Xinjiang, which is home to the Muslim Uighur minority, has seen a spate of attacks in the past year.

Information about incidents in the region, where ethnic tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese continue, is tightly controlled.

Pictures on Weibo microblogs – China’s equivalent of Twitter – appeared to show Thursday’s attack taking place at one end of a busy market street lined with vegetable stalls.

One of the two vehicles exploded.

A local shopkeeper told the Associated Press he heard “four or five explosions” and saw “three or four people lying on the ground”.

“Witnesses said two cross-country vehicles driving from north to south ploughed into people in the market at 07:50. Explosives were thrown out of the vehicles,” the Xinhua report said.

The injured were taken to several hospitals, Xinhua said.

The World Uyghur Congress said the authorities in the Chinese capital Beijing should not increase the crackdown in Xinjiang.

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China’s Urumqi railway station in western Xinjiang region has been hit by an explosion, injuring a number of people, state media report.

The blast hit Urumqi’s south railway station on Wednesday evening, state media said. The cause is not clear, but one report said at least 50 were hurt.

Xinjiang has experienced several violent clashes over the past months.

China’s Urumqi railway station in western Xinjiang region has been hit by an explosion, injuring a number of people

China’s Urumqi railway station in western Xinjiang region has been hit by an explosion, injuring a number of people

President Xi Jinping visited the region this week, and has promised to step up anti-terrorism efforts.

Verifying reports from the region is difficult because the information flow out of Xinjiang is tightly controlled.

“A blast occurred at Xinjiang’s Urumqi train station at around 19.00 tonight, and there are injured personnel,” state-run newspaper People’s Daily said on its verified microblog feed.

Meanwhile, The Beijing News said at least 50 people had been injured, citing police officers.

Photos on social media, which could not be independently verified, appeared to show suitcases and debris strewn across a street after the blast.

However, several microblog posts and photos related to the explosion appeared to have been quickly deleted from Sina Weibo, China’s largest microblog platform.

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Chinese police captured three suspects involved in Saturday’s deadly mass knife attack at Kunming railway station, state media report.

Several men and women burst into the south-western city’s railway station stabbing people at random, leaving 29 dead and wounding more than 130.

Officials have blamed separatists from the Xinjiang region for the attack.

Four attackers were shot dead by police at the scene, officials say. An injured female suspect was reportedly detained.

Citing a statement from the Ministry of Public Security, Xinhua news agency said six men and two women, led by a person identified as Abdurehim Kurban, were responsible for the attack.

There were no details about how the suspects were identified and captured.

Chinese police captured three suspects involved in Saturday's deadly mass knife attack at Kunming railway station

Chinese police captured three suspects involved in Saturday’s deadly mass knife attack at Kunming railway station

Officials say that evidence, such as insignia recovered from the station about “East Turkestan”, points to the involvement of separatists from Xinjiang – a region in the far west of China bordering Central Asia.

China’s security chief, Meng Jianzhu, has vowed “all-out efforts” to “severely punish terrorists”.

Eyewitnesses described horrific scenes on Saturday, saying that in just 12 minutes attackers used curved swords and meat cleavers to stab people at random as they rampaged through the station.

A memorial for the victims has been set up at Kunming station’s concourse

Kunming is the capital of China’s Yunnan province. On Monday, security was tight, with a heavy police presence at Kunming station and surrounding areas.

Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uighur minority group. Recent months have seen several violent incidents there which the government has blamed on extremists. Verifying these reports is difficult because foreign journalists’ access to the region is tightly controlled.

China is often accused of exaggerating the threat of Islamist terrorism to justify its harsh security crackdown in Xinjiang and the restrictions it places on the religion and culture of the Uighurs.

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Chinese separatists Uighur Muslims from the north-western Xinjiang region are blamed for the mass knife attack at Kunming railway station that left 29 people dead and at least 130 wounded, officials said.

A group of attackers, dressed in black, burst into the station in the south-west city of Kunming and began stabbing people at random.

Images from the scene posted online showed bodies lying in pools of blood.

State news agency Xinhua said police shot at least four suspects dead.

A female suspect was arrested and is being treated in hospital for unspecified injuries while a search continues for others who fled the scene.

Authorities described the incident as an “organized, premeditated, violent terrorist attack”.

The Kunming city government later said that evidence from the scene pointed to separatists from Xinjiang as being behind the attack.

It gave no details and the claim could not be verified.

Chinese separatists Uighur Muslims are blamed for the mass knife attack at Kunming railway station

Chinese separatists Uighur Muslims are blamed for the mass knife attack at Kunming railway station

Some of Xinjiang’s minority Uighur Muslims want autonomy from Chinese rule and an end to state suppression of their religion.

Witnesses in Kunming said those who couldn’t run quickly were cut down by the attackers’ knives.

A survivor named Yang Haifei, who was wounded in the back and chest, told Xinhua he had been buying a train ticket when the attackers rushed into the station.

“I saw a person come straight at me with a long knife and I ran away with everyone,” he said.

First reports said the attackers were only men, but witnesses and police later said the group also included women.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and PM Li Keqiang sent condolences to the victims and their families.

President Xi Jinping urged “all-out efforts” to investigate the attack.

“Severely punish in accordance with the law the violent terrorists and resolutely crack down on those who have been swollen with arrogance,” Xinhua quoted the president as saying.

The incident comes a few days before the opening of China’s annual parliamentary session, the National People’s Congress.

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At least 16 people have been killed in violence in China’s western region of Xinjiang, a state news portal says.

The incident took place late on Sunday in a village near the city of Kashgar.

The government-run regional news portal said police trying to make arrests were attacked by people armed with explosive devices and knives. Police shot dead 14 people, with two policemen also killed.

Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority group, sees sporadic clashes.

Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority group, sees sporadic clashes

Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority group, sees sporadic clashes

The government traditionally blames extremists for the violence, while Uighur activists point to ethnic tensions and tight Chinese control as triggers for violence.

Verifying reports from the region is difficult because the information flow out of Xinjiang is tightly controlled.

The report, on the official Tianshan news portal, said two people were also arrested.

Last month, state media reported nine civilians and two police were killed in an attack on a police station near Kashgar.

In late October, five people were killed when a car ploughed into a crowd and then burst into flames in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Beijing called the incident a terrorist attack inspired by Xinjiang-linked extremists. Three people who died inside the car were identified by police as Xinjiang Uighurs.

Two police officers and nine axe-wielding assailants have been shot dead during an attack on a police station in China’s volatile western Xinjiang province, state media say.

Xinhua news agency reports that the Saturday’s clashes took place in Bachu county’s Serikbuya, near the city of Kashgar.

Another two policemen were injured. Xinhua provided no further details.

Two police officers and nine axe-wielding assailants have been shot dead during an attack on a police station in China's volatile western Xinjiang province

Two police officers and nine axe-wielding assailants have been shot dead during an attack on a police station in China’s volatile western Xinjiang province

Xinjiang – where Muslim Uighurs make up a large part of the population – has seen several clashes this year.

Last month, five people died when a car ploughed into a crowd in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square – an attack the authorities blamed on the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

China often blames the ETIM for incidents in Xinjiang.

Uighur groups claim China uses ETIM as an excuse to justify repressive security in Xinjiang.

There are nine million Uighurs living in the province, but they are now a minority in the region, which is now dominated politically and economically by Han Chinese.

There were violent clashes in Xinjiang in April, June and August this year.

Two suspects have been named by Beijing police after a deadly car crash in Tiananmen Square, state media report.

The vehicle crashed into a crowd and burst into flames, killing five people.

Police subsequently issued a notice to hotels in Beijing seeking information about two people from Xinjiang province, Chinese media said.

The note also described a vehicle and four number plates from Xinjiang, the scene of sporadic violent incidents.

State-run Xinhua news agency said of the five people who died on Monday, three people died inside the car and two tourists were killed. Another 38 people were injured.

Police shut down the scene of the incident – at the north end of the square at an entrance to the Forbidden City – shortly after it occurred, temporarily closing a subway station and a road.

There has been no official statement on the cause of the incident.

Five people died on Monday in Tiananmen Square car crash

Five people died on Monday in Tiananmen Square car crash

“A major case has taken place on Monday,” the police notice said, without specifying what. It named two residents from Xinjiang’s Pishan and Shanshan counties as suspects.

The notice, unconfirmed images of which have been widely circulated on Chinese social media, also asked hotels to look out for “suspicious guests” and vehicles.

China’s state-controlled Global Times said it had confirmation from the Beijing police that the notice was genuine, although police did not comment on the “major case” itself.

Zhao Fuzhou, a security official at Beijing’s Xinjiang Dasha hotel, said that police had circulated a notice to hotels searching for information about two suspects with Uighur names, AP news agency reported.

Xinjiang is home to the minority Muslim Uighur group, some of whom complain of cultural and religious repression under Beijing’s rule. There have been sporadic outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang, including both Pishan and Shanshan counties.

China says it grants the Uighurs wide-ranging freedoms.

On Monday a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she did not know “specifics” about the incident. The country’s main state-run news agency, Xinhua, on Monday offered no reason for the incident but said police were investigating.

Tiananmen Square is a highly sensitive site due to its link to China’s 1989 pro-democracy protests, which were ended by a military crackdown.

The square is generally kept under very tight security both because of its proximity to key political institutions and so that is does not serve as a hub for protesters and petitioners, although incidents have nonetheless occurred there before.

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