Malaysia Hit for Deporting Uyghurs

This is the second time the country has repatriated Uyghurs to China despite concerns their human rights are at risk.
2013-02-04
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Several neighboring countries have extradited Uyghurs to China in recent years.
RFA

Malaysia has secretly deported six Uyghur asylum seekers to China even though they could be persecuted or tortured on their return home, according to a U.S.-based rights group, citing "credible" sources and criticizing the move as unlawful.

The Uyghurs were repatriated on Dec. 31 in "grave violation of international law" and ahead of a visit to Malaysia this week by China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

This is the second time predominantly Muslim Malaysia has deported asylum-seeking mostly Uyghur Muslims back to China. In 2011, 11 Uyghurs were deported and they were thrown in jail on their return on separatism charges.

Malaysia is among several Asian nations which have bowed to demands by Beijing to repatriate the Uyghur minority fleeing persecution in their homeland in China’s restive northwestern Xinjiang region.

“While Malaysians were celebrating the New Year, their government was forcibly returning Uyghur asylum seekers to a dangerously uncertain fate in China.” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, which has protested the Malaysian action in a letter to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

“The government has an obligation to explain how this happened, China’s role, and the steps being taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” he said in a statement.

False passports

Human Rights Watch said the six Uyghur men had been detained earlier in 2012 allegedly for attempting to leave Malaysia on false passports.

While in detention, they were registered with the office of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR and were permitted to proceed with refugee status determination (RSD) interviews.

"Although all six had asylum claims being reviewed, Malaysian police clandestinely transferred the men in late December into the custody of Chinese authorities, who escorted them from Malaysia to China on a chartered flight," Human Rights Watch said.

Under international law, it is unlawful for any country to return individuals to a place where they are likely to face persecution or torture.

UNHCR spokeswoman Yante Ismail expressed regret that despite the agency's representations to the Malaysian government over the cases of the six men, they had been deported to "a country where their human rights might be at risk," Agence France-Presse reported.

Representatives for Malaysia's Home Ministry, which handles police and security issues, said they could not immediately comment, according to the Associated Press.

Evidence

The Chinese government frequently accuses ethnic Uyghurs, particularly those seeking asylum, of being terrorists or separatists without providing evidence to substantiate such claims, Human Rights Watch said.

“This isn’t the first time the Malaysian government has violated international law on Beijing’s behalf, but it has the chance to make it the last,” Robertson said.

“Announcing Malaysia’s commitment to protecting refugees and ratifying the refugee conventions would be a good place to start,” he said.

A mother of one of the 11 Uyghurs repatriated by Malaysia in 2011 told RFA’s Uyghur Service in December that her son is serving a three-year sentence for separatism in Hotan prison in Xinjiang, following a secret trial in July.

Friends of his and the other 10 deported men said they have heard that all of them had been thrown in jail for up to 15 years, though they did not wish to be named and the sentences could not be confirmed.

Other countries that have repatriated Uyghurs allegedly following pressure from Chinese authorities are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos.

Jia heads a 60-member delegation on a four-day visit to Malaysia beginning Monday, during which he will sign a series of agreements and open a joint industrial park, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

China hopes Jia's visit makes the "China-Malaysia traditional friendship last forever" and "underscores the "good momentum in strategic [bilateral] cooperation," it said.

Reported by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Comments (6)
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starbucks_sg

@Elena. Do you think there is any country out there in better shape than China? The U.S. owes China 3 trillion dollars and all they can do is just open their mouths and talk, talk, talk till the cows come home. When you are down and out, and certainly the U.S. is, nobody gives a ... other than lip service. Also bear in mind, a strong emergent China is good for ASEAN. Why then do you think ASEAN is not united when it comes to the South China Sea islands row?


[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Feb 27, 2013 05:34 PM

Human Being

from Dehradun

Thinking about well being of other is need if you wish you live happy.Those six people are very helpless.Chinese official never think abt them.So peace loving people must think abt.this matter as we are also same being.

Feb 07, 2013 11:36 PM

A. Miqdad

from Malaysia

The Malaysian Muslim Government has to come with another good alternative to help our Muslims, brothers and sisters there...

Feb 06, 2013 01:19 AM

Chuc Than Binh

from Hanoi

Muslim never helps Muslim, it is very bad, a shame of Malaysian Muslim government which always claims that they are Muslim majority but they act in a cheapest way to send their brothers and sisters to death under Chinese discriminated laws. ...


[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Feb 05, 2013 06:17 PM

Elena

from Singapore

Notice how the people who repatriated the Uyghurs are relatively poor, and rely on China for their economy's health. You'd think if organisations like HRW were so keen on the Uyghurs' human rights, they would lobby their own governments to provide greater financial aid to those governments so they would be less reliant on China.

Feb 05, 2013 05:48 PM

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