Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cambodia Deports Muslim Asylum-Seekers Back to China Despite Fears of Retribution Upon Their Return

"Cambodia to Expel Asylum Seekers"
Published: December 19, 2009
"Cambodia deported a group of 20 Muslim asylum-seekers back to China on Saturday, despite the protests from the U.S. and the U.N., which rushed people to the airport in an attempt to physically prevent their expulsion.

As the Uighurs were put in a compound under constant guard in recent days, exile and rights groups grew increasingly nervous that Cambodia would give in to considerable pressure from Beijing, the Southeast Asian nation's largest foreign investor. The decision to expel them finally was announced on the eve of a visit from Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.

Amnesty International warned the Uighurs could be tortured on their return to China, while analysts and exile groups said the deportation showed widespread problems with the refugee system at large.

The Uighurs, including two children, fled after ethnic rioting in July and slipped out of the country with the help of a secret missionary network in China. Their role in the rioting, China's worst communal violence in decades, remains unclear.

But China called them criminals, and Cambodia said it was deporting them because they had entered the country illegally. China's Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment Saturday night.

China has handed down at least 17 death sentences -- mostly to Uighurs -- over the summer violence between the ethnic minority and the majority Han Chinese. Exile groups say Uighurs have been rounded up in mass detentions since the rioting. Uighurs also complain the Chinese government has long restricted their rights, particularly clamping down on their practice of Islam.

Some countries have refused to send Uighurs -- such as those released from U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba -- back to China over concerns about retribution and abuse."

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