Friday's Dongguan Daily, showing the two Uighur 'ringleaders' in a completely impartial pair of handcuffs

Last Thursday the Chinese police claimed they had ‘cracked a terrorist cell headed by [Uighur] separatists’. At a press conference in Beijing, a Ministry of Public Security spokesman said that 10 people had been detained for their role in attacks on a police station in Kashgar in August 2008, and for ‘bombing supermarkets, hotel and government buildings’ in Kuqa. Two Uighurs were identified as the ringleaders: Abdurixit Ablet, 42, and Imin Semai'er, 33, both of whom were said to have confessed to planning a series of terrorist attacks. The press were also shown slides of bullets, axes, knives and pipe bombs allegedly made by the accused.

As with previous detentions, how and when the accused were arrested is unclear, as is the nature of the evidence against them (in any country, let alone one with as poor a record on torture as China, the words ‘interrogation’ and ‘confession’ must raise serious concerns). Instead the arrests have the air of a fait accompli, which is likely to be true of the verdicts as well: in China almost no one is ever found innocent when publicly accused of such a crime.

The timing of these arrests makes the judicial processes involved even more suspect. The announcements of the arrests of the drug-addicts accused of last year’s reported syringe attacks in Xinjiang and the Uighur ‘bomb makers’ rounded up last September were intended both to reassure the Han population in Xinjiang and to warn off anyone contemplating further attacks or protests. It’s surely no coincidence that the Chinese government has chosen to announce these latest arrests as the first anniversary of the Ürümqi riots approaches.