BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, June 30 (UPI) -- Unidentified attackers gunned down a Chinese diplomat in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Sunday, sparking speculation that Uighur separatists may be linked to the killing.
Wang Teng Ping, the first secretary of the Chinese Embassy to Kyrgyzstan, was riding in his limousine through central Bishkek when two attackers opened fire from close range, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported Sunday.
The two gunmen used Russian-made TT pistols, investigators told the agency.
The diplomat and his driver were killed on the spot.
The killers then fled the scene in a waiting car, eyewitnesses said.
According to prosecutors, several theories are being investigated to disclose the motives behind the killing.
"We cannot rule out the theory linking Uighur separatists with the murder," a spokesman for prosecution said Sunday.
In May 2000, two Chinese diplomats were killed in Kyrgyzstan in an attack that law enforcement authorities later blamed on Uighur separatists.
Four separatists charged with the May 2000 killings have been imprisoned and are waiting for their appeal to be heard in court.
If the court rejects the appeal, the four will be executed.
The Uighurs separatist movement originated in western China's autonomous Xingjiang-Uighur district in the early 1990s.
The ultimate goal of the secessionists is the creation of an independent state called East Turkestan.
The region, whose population is estimated at 9 million, is largely inhabited by Muslim Uighurs.
The Chinese government's attempts to change the demographic situation by settling ethnic Chinese in the province has failed so far to bring about change.
Recently, Kyrgyzstan handed over 200,000 acres of land to China under a bilateral deal specifying demarcation lines along the Chinese-Kyrgyz border.