BEIJING (Reuters) - Police in southwestern China shot dead one person and detained 21 others who were part of a group of “religious extremists” trying to cross the border into Vietnam, state media said on Wednesday.
The reports, carried by state television and the official Xinhua news agency, did not say where the group was from, but small numbers of Uighurs from China’s far western region of Xinjiang have begun trickling out of China to Southeast Asia in recent years.
State television said that one of the group tried to stab a policeman but two other officers shot the person dead, adding that the others had all been detained. The incident happened on Sunday night in Guangxi region, it said.
Xinhua said police had been tipped off that the group was trying to cross the border into Vietnam, and so assembled a team to track them down.
Hundreds of people have been killed in unrest in Xinjiang in the past two years, prompting a crackdown by Chinese authorities, who blame the problem on Islamist militants who want an independent state called East Turkestan.
Some of the Uighurs who have ended up in Southeast Asia are believed to first go overland into Laos or Myanmar, and then onwards to Thailand and elsewhere.
Chinese officials in Thailand have identified numerous Uighurs among the individuals Thai police have rescued from a people-smuggling camp, and those confirmed to be from China will be sent home, a state-run Chinese newspaper said last month.
Thai police told Reuters about 200 people rescued in March were believed to be Uighurs, many of whom chafe at Chinese government curbs on their culture and Muslim religion.
China and Thailand have agreed to step up their cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration and terrorism, the Chinese government said on Wednesday.
In a joint communique released by China’s foreign ministry following a visit to Beijing by Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, both countries said they would hold defense and security dialogue between their defense ministries.
“The Thai side viewed that China could significantly contribute to the development of the countries in the region through its contributions to such areas as health, anti-drug trafficking and human trafficking,” it added.
There was no direct reference to the Uighurs.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Michael Perry and Jeremy Laurence