Deportation of Uighur refugees denounced

Cambodia has deported back to a group of 20 Muslim Uighurs who were seeking refuge in the country despite warnings they will face persecution by Beijing.

Deportation of Uighur refugees denounced

Cambodia has deported back to a group of 20 Muslim Uighurs who were seeking refuge in the country after fleeing the violence in China this year, a government official said on Sunday, despite warnings they will face persecution by Beijing.

The Uighur American Association said some in the group had witnessed security forces killing and beating Uighur demonstrators and they could face persecution, including possible execution, in China.

Clashes over the summer between Han Chinese and Muslim Uighur residents in Urumqi, East Turkistan's capital, left 197 people dead, according to Chinese government figures. However, Uighur exile groups said up to 800 people died, many of them Uighurs shot or beaten to death by police.

The forced depoprtation came on the eve of the Chinese vice president's arrival in Phnom Penh on a state visit Sunday

The Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic group involved in rioting in western China that killed nearly 200 people in July, were smuggled into Cambodia in recent weeks and applied for asylum at the United Nations refugee agency office in Phnom Penh.

Human rights groups say they fear for the lives of the Uighurs if they are deported to China.

They were deported late on Saturday, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong.

"We were implementing the 'immigration laws' of the country. They came to Cambodia illegally. We had to apply our immigration law," he added.

However, the deportation coincides with a visit to Cambodia on Sunday by Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping, who is expected to sign 14 pacts related to infrastructure construction, grants and loans.

China is Cambodia's biggest investor, having poured more than $1 billion in foreign direct investment into the country.

The Washington-based Uighur American Association said the 20 will likely face torture and possible execution, citing the case of Shaheer Ali, a Uighur political activist who fled to Nepal in 2000 and was granted refugee status by the United Nations.

He was forcibly returned to China from Nepal in 2002 and executed a year later, according to state media.

"Serious breach"

The United Nations refugee agency office condemned the deportation. "The forced return of asylum-seekers without a full examination of their asylum claims is a serious breach of international refugee law," the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office said in a statement.

UNHCR spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey said her agency had sent staff to Phnom Penh's main airport on Saturday to try to physically stop the deportation, but authorities circumvented this using a military airport instead.

Two of the original group of 22 Uighurs had disappeared while being transferred around Phnom Penh, she added.

Before the announcement of the deportation, the US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid had said Cambodia should "honour its commitment under international law."

"We are deeply disturbed by reports the Cambodian government might forcibly return this group of Uighurs without the benefit of a credible refugee status determination process," Duguid told reporters.

Beijing has called the asylum seekers "criminals", although it has offered no evidence to back up the allegations.

Rights groups say Cambodia is flouting a 1951 convention on refugees in which it pledged not to return asylum seekers to countries where they will face persecution. Cambodia is one of two Southeast Asian nations to have signed the convention.

China changed name of East Turkistan and named it Xinjiang in 1955.

Many Uighurs resent Han Chinese rule, complaining they're marginalised economically and politically in their own land, while having to tolerate a rising influx of Han Chinese migrants.

Meanwhile, human rights groups accuse Beijing of using claims of "terrorism" as an excuse to crack down on peaceful pro-independence sentiment and expressions of Uighur identity.



Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Aralık 2009, 18:43
Add Comment