Uyghurs Sent Back to China

On the eve of a high-level Chinese visit, Cambodia returns a group of asylum-seekers to China.

ethnic-unity-xj-305.jpg Chinese riot police patrol the streets in a truck with a banner promoting ethnic unity in Urumqi, July 9, 2009.

PHNOM PENH—Cambodian authorities have returned to China a group of ethnic Uyghurs who had sought asylum here, despite international concern that they could face torture and execution for allegedly taking part in deadly ethnic riots in China this year.

Cambodian Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak said 20 Uyghurs —a distinct ethnic minority concentrated in China’s northwestern-most corner— were put on a special plane sent from China that left Phnom Penh International Airport late Saturday.

“They are going back to China,” he said.

Beijing has called the asylum seekers “criminals” without offering evidence to support the charge.

Rights groups, which urged Phnom Penh to stop the deportations, say Cambodia is bound by a 1951 convention on refugees pledging not to return asylum-seekers to countries where they will face persecution.

The move came a day before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visits Cambodia as part of a four-country tour.

Cambodia is expected to sign 14 agreements with China during Xi's visit related to infrastructure construction, grants, and loans, Reuters reported.

Cambodia has already received more than U.S. $1 billion in foreign direct investment from China, which in October agreed to provide U.S. $853 million in loans to the impoverished country for dams, infrastructure, and irrigation projects.

Call to stop

The United States, the United Nations, and human rights groups had urged Cambodia to stop the deportation.

“We are deeply disturbed by the reports that the Cambodian government might forcibly return this group of Uyghurs without the benefit of a credible refugee status determination process,” U.S. Embassy spokesman John Johnson in Phnom Penh said earlier.

Washington had no immediate reaction to the Uyghurs’ return.

Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Koy Kuong, said in an interview Friday that Phnom Penh had determined the Uyghurs had entered the country illegally and would be returned to China.

“All 20 [Uyghurs] illegally entered Cambodia, because they have no immigration papers, no visa. Therefore they violate Cambodia's 1994 immigration law. They have to be deported, because they are illegal immigrants,” Koy Kuong said.

Uyghur sources said the Uyghur asylum-seekers fear detention, torture, and possible execution in China for allegedly taking part in deadly ethnic riots in July in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Borders tighter

China has meanwhile tightened its southeastern border, Uyghur sources say, and has detained 31 Uyghurs since Sept. 15 in the southern cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou and in the central city of Kunming, either for trying to flee the country or for allegedly aiding others in fleeing China.

The Chinese government has detained hundreds of Uyghurs, and at least 43 Uyghur men have disappeared in the wake of ethnic violence that erupted in Urumqi on July 5, according to Human Rights Watch, which says the actual number of disappearances is likely far higher.

Nearly 200 people were killed in the clashes, by the Chinese government’s tally. Twelve people have since been sentenced to death in connection with the violence.

Police have meanwhile detained more than 700 people in connection with the unrest, according to earlier state news reports.

Uyghurs, a distinct and mostly Muslim ethnic group, have long complained of religious, political, and cultural oppression by Chinese authorities, and tensions have simmered in the Xinjiang region for years.

Original reporting by RFA's Khmer and Uyghur services and by news agencies. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Uyghur service director: Dolkun Kamberi. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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Dec 20, 2009 01:46 PM

This is great tragedy and inhuman action of Hunsen puppet government to repatriate these innocent people. UN hopeless, China sucker.

Dec 22, 2009 11:29 AM

shame on china ,shame on cambodian !!!!!!!!!!

Jan 09, 2010 08:48 AM

Well, they send them back. because they want to more from China. They are all the nastiest !

Dec 20, 2009 10:44 PM

In the regime of HunSen government is the dictatorship, many many vietnamese entered cambodia without immigration papers, no visas, why did koy kuong not talk about these.some of them are dangeruos around Hun SEn such as Sokh An, . i would like hun sen send vietnamese to their country, include Sokh An.

Dec 19, 2009 03:42 PM

I know that Cambodia's disgusting and reprehensible action in returning the Uyghurs to China made this a very dark day for the Uyghur people and also for the human race. I am an American and I want to remind the Uyghurs on this message board that many Americans love you. We support you, we admire you, we stand beside you, and we won't leave your side. I ask the other non-Uyghurs on this list to post messages of support for our Uyghur brothers and sisters. Tell them how much you care about them.

Dec 20, 2009 04:28 AM

We are Cambodian people really sorry to the sincere Uyghur people for what a handful of Chinese slave done to you. We Cambodian people very humble, kind-hearted and helpful but Hunsen pawn regime will commit every possible offences in order to get Chinese and Hanoi satisfied. We very shocked to learn this news, Hun Youn, government unreasonably forcibly sent these innocent people back to China for facing prosecution of inhumane communist. But you know, we cambodian also confronting the similar fate to you, this communists-sponsored Phnom Penh regime expelled Khmer people from their own house, plundered the civilian land, secretly caught and sent back Hmong people and Khmer Krom people to Vietnam for execution or torment. Hopefully, those just taken back be well and win. The world community must firmly be alert on this facade Hun Sen. Must take action against his officials by travlling bans and economic sanctions.

Dec 19, 2009 10:18 PM

i think this is the beginning of the END OF WORLD, which is said in bible or kuran, people live in the recent world for the money,no love each other,combodia will see how their future ,just for money change 20 humans life

Dec 24, 2009 07:27 PM

Whatever China do, they most lose their power and their power will contribute to Asia peaceful, but must have respects to others. If China break down would definitely cause an internal civil war and that then China will open another long past history had ten of million died. These Asian on this website does not know what they are talking about. They like to think the world is so simple by bringing democracy to everyone. Democracy still has with a Communist system of economics.

Dec 20, 2009 12:04 AM

Oh! This is incredible, How brutal Hunsen regime done so to despatch these people back to Animal Chinese Communist for execution. Why UNHCR so powerless touching these refuge seekers. There is no doubt with Hun Youn government to act inhumanely even with their own people, they can do, Khmer and Khmer Kampuchea Krom, very often Phnom Penh regime forces them back to Vietnam for persecution. Needless to say unfortunate Uyghur people. The world must jointly condemn Hunsen to ash for what his puppet government have done stupidly in order to fulfill Big Brother China and Hanoi.

Dec 21, 2009 01:34 AM

similiar to the case of killing field... shame on cambodian gorverment

Dec 20, 2009 02:02 PM

Hun Sen feast government as well must force sending back nearly 33million illegal Vietnamese migrants on Cambodian soil. It's unreasonable of this puppet regime of the dictator Hun Youn, they sent these innocent people back to China for execution only.

Dec 19, 2009 03:41 PM

what a dark day!!!!!!!!ah.............uyghur........

Jan 03, 2010 07:30 AM

cambodian government are carzy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dec 31, 2009 02:17 PM

What unprofessinal nurse! My wife was sent her daughter to Komacheat Hospital last week and she very surprised when nurse there asking her to buy a faster number to first treatment cost 10,000.riel. Do the other country act the same us? or Is there only in Cambodia?

Dec 19, 2009 01:27 PM

that is so sad,those people had taken such a chance and made it out , I can't believe that if they were 'criminals' they would have made that effort,...instead they probably had something significant to tell. For Cambodia maybe they weighed up those 14 agreements they are about to sign with China and their own populations needs...but interesting article recently called 'Kmer riche' about the young and wealthy

Jan 09, 2010 08:50 AM

A lot of other countries know that China is number one lier in the world !