World Bulletin / News Desk
Amnesty International has called on China to reveal the whereabouts of 20 Muslim Uighur asylum-seekers who were forcibly deported from Cambodia last week after the country refused to release any information.
Cambodia deported back to a group of 20 Muslim Uighurs who 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.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu declined to say where the Uighurs were or whether they had been charged with any crime upon their return to China.
Chinese authorities accused them of being "criminals" over violent protests in July.
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.
Uighurs say the violence was initially triggered when police cracked down harshly on peaceful demonstrations in Urumqi that were held in protest of the beating deaths of two Uighur migrant workers at a factory in southern China.
No response to UN request
Meanwhile, a United Nations expert on minority issues on Tuesday called on China to let her carry out a comprehensive and independent assessment of tensions between Han Chinese and the Uighur Muslim minority.
"A thorough analysis of the events that took place must go to the heart of ethnic tensions in the region that underlie the terrible tragedy and appalling loss of life experienced by both communities," Gay McDougall said.
McDougall first requested to visit Uighur region after ethnic clashes erupted in the region in July, but Beijing did not reply. She is an independent expert on minority issues, appointed to implement the UN Declaration on Minorities.
She said from her Geneva office that unless the cause of the violence in July, in which dozens of Uighur people died in clashes with Han ethnics, is studied and understood in a transparent manner, the situation may drive the two communities farther apart.
The UN rapporteur on torture in Geneva, Manfred Novak, raised grave concern on Tuesday about Cambodia's decision to deport 22 Uighurs to China, who had requested asylum in Cambodia.
Novak said in a statement that the Cambodian government had deliberately prevented an objective determination of the refugee status of the Uighurs. He said the Uighurs risk torture and death if they are sent back to China.
"I am calling on the Chinese authorities to treat the 22 persons humanely upon return in accordance with international standards, to grant access to them in case they are detained and to afford them due process guarantees, if charged with criminal offenses," Novak said.
"Two very young children"
Amesty said in a statement, "two very young children included in the group may be at risk of torture or even execution since their forcible deportation at the request of the Chinese government."
"The 20 should either be charged with recognizably criminal offences or released," said Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi in a letter to the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi Buzhang.
"Their trials should meet international fair trial standards, and under no circumstances should the death penalty be imposed," he said.
"Our concerns are heightened by the fact that the Chinese authorities have already executed nine people and sentenced eight others to death in relation to the July 2009 unrest in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region," said Sam Zarifi.
Amnesty International reminded that it has documented cases in which Uighur asylum seekers or refugees who were forcibly returned to China were detained, reportedly tortured and in some cases sentenced to death and executed since 2001.
Amnesty International has also urged the Chinese government to provide the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) with immediate access to the 20 individuals to monitor their well-being.
Here are the names of forcibly deported Uighurs according to Amnesty International.
1. Abdugheni Abdulkadir and family
2. Abulkadir Shahida
3. Abulkadir Bilal
4. Abulkadir Maymuna
5. Abdugheni Halil
6. Abdullah Kasim
7. Ali Ahmat
8. Ali Nur
9. Amat Eli
10. Ebrayim Mamut
11. Hazirtieli Umar
12. Islam Urayim
13. Kuban Kanwul
14. Mahmut Bilal
15. Mamat Ali
16. Mohammed Musa
17. Mutallip Mamut
18. Omar Mohammed
19. Tuniyazi Aikaebaier Jiang
20. Turik Muhamed