The ringleader of a toy factory brawl believed to have ignited the bloodiest riots ever witnessed in Xinjiang has been sentenced to death.
Xiao Jianhua was found guilty of being the main force behind the fight, which resulted in the deaths of two Uygur workers on June 26 at Xuri Factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong province.
He was sentenced on Saturday at the city's Intermediate People's Court, along with co-accused Xu Qiqi, who was given life in prison.
Penalties ranging from five to eight years in jail were also handed out to nine more suspects at two local courts.
Xiao incited fellow Han workers to fight Uygur colleagues and led the violence at the factory, court officials said.
Aximujiang Aimaiti and Sadikejiang Kaze, both migrant workers from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, were beaten to death in the brawl.
The incident resulted in injuries to 118 people, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Nur Bekri, chairman of Xinjiang, said rumors following the Shaoguan brawl directly led to the horrific July 5 riot in the regional capital, Urumqi.
The court heard the June 26 fight started after a male Uygur worker was seen chasing a female Han intern surnamed Huang through the factory.
Shortly after, Xiao and his accomplices used iron bars to beat Uygur workers and obstructed medics from treating the injured, Xinhua reported.
Local police also said an unsubstantiated Internet post alleging six Uygur men had raped two Han women at the factory fueled the violence. Police found no evidence of the alleged rapes after investigation and two people were detained on charges of fabricating and spreading the rumor.
Suspect information was also circulated after the brawl in Xinjiang. A migrant worker named Abdullah in Urumqi told China Daily rumors alleged 300 Uygur women from Shufu county had been forced to leave for Guangdong after the government demolished their homes. They were then sold, enslaved by Han factory owners, raped and killed.
The sensational story was also used by the World Uyghur Congress to incite the July 5 riot. The organization's leader Rebiya Kadeer is accused by the central government of masterminding the riot.
All Uygur workers at the Shaoguan factory are from Shufu, where 98 percent of the population is ethnic Uygur.
Since 2006, the Shufu government has run migrant labor programs with Guangdong and other inland provinces in an attempt to lift local residents out of poverty.
The July 5 riot in Urumqi left at least 197 people dead and more than 1,700 injured. Police believe hostile overseas forces fueled rumors to fire up Uygur and Han communities.
Xinhua contributed to the story