Thousands Attend Funeral of Two Chinese Muslims Shot Dead by Police
Crowds of thousands on Saturday attended the funerals of two Chinese Muslims shot dead by police after officers opened fire on an Islamic protest earlier in the week.
Liu Guangting, speaking from a mosque in the small town of Mengcun in the northern province of Hebei, told AFP several thousand mourners were taking part in graveside demonstrations due to begin at 2pm (0600 GMT).
"The crowd is calm," he said. "There's no anger, just a huge sadness."
He said there was no visible police presence around the massed Muslims. "There could be plain-clothes officers, but we haven't noticed any," he added.
Numerous Muslims from neighboring regions on Friday attended the funerals of three other victims of Wednesday's shooting.
Sources had told AFP then that all five had been buried, but on Saturday it became clear services for two were delayed.
The demonstrations are among the most serious religious challenge to the communist regime witnessed in China in the past few years.
The five were shot when officers in east China's Shandong province opened fire on Muslim demonstrators, also injuring more than 40.
The clash took place in Shandong's Yangxin county, where confrontations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been heating up.
Those killed and injured were among 700 Hui people who had traveled from Mengcun to protest at what they saw as deliberate provocation by non-Muslims.
On arrival they were met by 300 armed police officers who tried to block their entry into the city.
"It happened in three steps," Islamic student Liu Zhen told AFP by telephone. "First the police shot into the air, then into the ground, and then directly into the crowd."
The killings came as authorities in eastern China pursued a crackdown on non-state sanctioned churches that has seen the destruction or closure of up to 1,200 places of worship of all religions.
Coming in the run-up to Christmas, the United States said Thursday it was "appalled" at the Chinese crackdown on unauthorized religion -- BEIJING (AFP)
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