Rights Groups Denounce Malaysia for Deporting 11 Chinese Uighurs

Posted August 23rd, 2011 at 3:35 am (UTC-5)
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Leading human rights groups are denouncing Malaysia's decision to hand over a group of ethnic Uighurs to China rather than permitting them to appeal for asylum to a U.N. agency.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say the 11 Uighurs may be subject to harsh imprisonment or torture in China. Human Rights Watch is appealing for Malaysia to ensure the safety of five other Uighurs who were arrested with the 11 in Kuala Lumpur last week.

The Associated Press quoted a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees saying Tuesday that the agency is seeking access to the five to assess their claims for asylum. The spokesman said the five should be tried in Malaysia for any crimes they may have committed rather than deported to China.

Malaysian authorities say the 16 were involved in human trafficking, and had smuggled Chinese citizens into the country through Thailand.

Human Rights Watch said Uighurs have been deported to China from Thailand, Pakistan, Cambodia and now Malaysia in violation of normal due process. It suggested that pressure from the Chinese government is responsible.

The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking, mainly Muslim ethnic group living in far western China, where many chafe under Chinese rule. Beijing accuses some Uighurs of involvement in Islamist terrorism.

Amnesty International says Malaysia's action calls into question its commitment to the fair treatment of refugees, just as the country is about to enter into a controversial refugee swap with Australia.