The New York Times
October 12, 2009
By DAVID BARBOZA
SHANGHAI — China sentenced one man to death and another to life in prison on Saturday for their roles in a deadly toy factory brawl that was blamed for setting off riots in western China’s Xinjiang region this past summer, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Two courts in southern Guangdong Province, where the toy factory was located, also sentenced nine other people to prison terms ranging from five to eight years for taking part in the fights in June, according to Xinhua.
Xiao Jianhua was sentenced to death as the “principal instigator” in the factory melee that pitted a group of Han Chinese against a group of Turkic-speaking Uighurs from the Xinjiang region.
Mr. Xiao and Xu Qiqi, who was sentenced to life in prison, were both convicted of manslaughter, Xinhua said.
The fight, at the Early Light Toy Factory in Shaoguan City, was incited by rumors that a group of Muslim Uighurs had raped two Han Chinese women. It raged at a factory dormitory through the early-morning hours of June 26, eventually leaving two Uighur men dead and, by some accounts, about 120 other people injured, most of them Uighurs.
The police said no woman was raped. The government said the fight was caused by a misunderstanding involving a woman who accidentally ventured into a dormitory room of Uighur men. According to the government’s account, a Han Chinese man later posted reports of rape on the Internet, setting off a bloody showdown.
On July 5, after reports of the brawl spread to Xinjiang, where most of the country’s Uighur Muslims live, demonstrations and riots broke out. There have been longstanding tensions there between Han Chinese, who have flooded into the area, and native Uighurs.
The government said the Uighurs went on a murderous rampage against Han Chinese, killing more than 200 people and leaving more than 1,000 wounded. Uighurs say the government has not fully accounted for Uighur deaths in the region; and some Han Chinese have said the death toll among their group was higher.
The government eventually put down the riots, but the region remains tense.
On Saturday, the Intermediate People’s Court in Shaoguan City sentenced the men involved in the brawl after a short trial, following their Sept. 23 indictments. In contrast to the accounts that indicated scores were hurt, the court said three other people were severely injured and six slightly injured.
The court said Saturday that Mr. Xiao and his accomplices beat the Uighur men with iron bars and “obstructed” medical workers from treating the injured.
Of the 11 men sentenced Saturday, three were Uighur men, who were given five to six years in prison.
Xinhua said several other men also faced indictment for their roles in the brawl.