Authorities in Hungary expelled a visiting senior official of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and took other actions that caused the abrupt cancellation of the group's youth wing meeting in the capital Budapest this week, according to WUC officials who believe the European nation was acting under pressure from China.
Umit Hamit Agahi, the WUC Vice-President, was detained and interrogated by the Hungarian police for nearly 12 hours on Thursday before he was expelled to Germany, the headquarters of the WUC, which champions the rights of the minority ethnic Uyghurs in China's Xinjiang region.
Police also sealed off the venue of the meeting organized by the World Federation of Hungarians and the Budapest Attila Hotel where the Uyghur delegation was staying, citing a bomb scare, the WUC officials said.
The actions forced the cancellations of the meeting, which was scheduled for three days from Friday, and a pre-meeting press conference to be attended by foreign envoys and members of Hungary's parliament.
“I strongly believe the dark hand of China is behind this," Umit Hamit Agahi told RFA's Uyghur Service on his return to Germany.
He said that during his interrogations, he realized that he was being held on suspicion of terrorism and that police had told him he was "a threat to the security of Hungary" without providing any evidence.
“This is something unexpected for me and for my organization. We were holding the meeting legally and with the support of the World Federation of Hungarians, which was registered in Hungary," said Umit Hamit Agahi, who is in charge of WUC's European affairs.
"I have been living in Germany for the past 19 years, I am a German citizen, and have been working with human rights organizations in the EU [European Union] over the past 10 years. I have gone to Hungary eight times for the past 10 years. I have close links with rights organizations in Hungary. I am no stranger to Hungary."
He said Chinese state security organs may have provided the Hungarian police with "false" information about himself and "triggered alarm" in Hungary.
"Only China calls the WUC a terrorist organization," he said.
China has blamed much of the violence in the restive Xinjiang region on Uyghur "terrorists," but rights groups say Beijing exaggerates the terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against the Uyghur minority.
Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination, oppressive religious controls, and continued poverty and joblessness, blaming the problems partly on the influx of Han Chinese into the region.
Dilxat Raxit, the WUC spokesman, said the Hungarian government owed an explanation for the explusion of Umit Hamit Agahi and for clamping down on the WUC meeting.
"We call upon the Hungarian government to elaborate on the reasons why our activities were stopped."
Dolkun Isa, the WUC Chairman of the Executive Committee, said the Munich-based group had been in contact with German and Hungarian envoys in their efforts to gain the release of Umit Hamit Agahi.
"If he was detained because of fears of the Chinese government, then it is very unfortunate news not only for the Uyghurs but also other suppressed nationalities around the world," he said.
Dolkun Isa charged that China was using its economic might to obstruct the activities of overseas Uyghur organizations.
He said Beijing was pressuring countries in the Middle East and Central and South Asia to control Uyghur activities there and deport home Uyghur political aslyum seekers.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos have been listed as among countries which have bowed to demands by Beijing to repatriate the Uyghur minority fleeing persecution in their homeland in China's northwestern Xinjiang region, according to Uyghur exile groups.
"If China has made Hungary to submit [to its demands], that is very unfortunate and dangerous not only for the Uyghur human rights situation but also for the world's human rights development," Dolkun Isa said.
"We urge all justice-seeking countries and organizations to pay attention to this incident and express their concerns over this."
Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA's Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.