Heavily armed Chinese paramilitary policemen march in Urumqi. (Photo: AP, Ng Han Guan)
Police in Shanghai have arrested 10 Turkish nationals suspected of supplying fake passports to ethnic Uighurs from China’s far-western region of Xinjiang who were described as “terror suspects” by state media.
Hundreds of people have been killed in resource-rich Xinjiang, strategically located on the borders of central Asia, in violence in the past two years between the Muslim Uighur people who call the region home and ethnic majority Han Chinese.
Another 11 people, including nine Xinjiang “terror suspects”, were also detained in November while trying to leave China after paying 60,000 yuan ($9,700) for altered Turkish passports, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not elaborate on the case but told a news conference on Wednesday the report was “extremely accurate”.
“Fighting illegal immigration is a common desire of the international community and is the Chinese government’s consistent position as well as what (the government) advocates. We are willing to cooperate closely with the international community of this issue,” he said.
The Turkish embassy in Beijing did not respond to requests for information about the case.
The paper said “terrorism-related audio and video materials were found among the suspects and that some had been bound for Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
In October, Malaysian authorities detained 155 Uighurs in Kuala Lumpur who were carrying Turkish passports suspected to be fake.
Separately, authorities in Xinjiang announced that people buying fireworks for Chinese New Year would have to register using their ID cards, the China Daily reported late on Tuesday.
The move was meant to prevent “terrorists” from obtaining raw materials to make explosives, it quoted Li Jianghui, an official with Xinjiang’s work safety department, as saying.
Fireworks shops must record the variety and number of products bought by each customer, he said.
China blames “Islamist militants” from Xinjiang for attacks elsewhere in China, including Beijing. Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest.
A group of “mobsters” on Monday tried to set off an explosive device in a business district of Xinjiang, prompting police to shoot dead six of them, local authorities said.