Beijing An underground network of Christian missionaries that usually works with North Korean refugees says it has helped smuggle nearly two dozen Muslim Uighurs out of China following last summer’s deadly ethnic violence and the subsequent government crackdown.
It’s the first time the Christian interfaith network has worked with a group of Uighurs, and it won’t be the last, with more currently using the so-called underground railway to make their way out of the country and requests for assistance surging into the hundreds, missionaries said.
Long-simmering tensions between Turkic Uighurs and China’s Han majority have increased since July’s riots in the western region of Xinjiang. The Chinese government says the violence left nearly 200 people, mostly Han, dead.
A Chinese court sentenced three Uighurs to death Friday for their actions during the rioting, bringing to 17 the number of death sentences handed down over the violence. Overseas Uighur groups say Uighurs have been rounded up in mass detentions since the riots.