PRESS RELEASE: WUC Calls on Indonesia Not to Deport Uyghur Refugees to China
The WUC calls on the government of Indonesia to adhere to international law and the principle of non-refoulment and refrain from forcibly returning Uyghur refugees to China, where they would be severely persecuted due to their Uyghur ethnic identity.
There remains considerable confusion about the current fate of four Uyghur refugees in Indonesia, with some outlets alleging that they have already been forcibly returned to China, and others saying that they are still in detention in Indonesia.
The four Uyghur refugees had all been jailed by Indonesian authorities in 2015, after they were sentenced to six years in prison and were fined 100 million rupiah (U.S. $6,812) for entering the country illegally and allegedly trying to join an organisation affiliated with Islamic terrorism.
While the WUC does not condone the actions these individuals are accused of and unequivocally condemns terrorism, extremism or any form of violence, we note that these individuals have served their sentences for the crimes they were accused of. If they are forcibly returned to China, they would likely be subjected to enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and other serious human rights violations. They would not be given a fair trial or access to a lawyer, as they had in Indonesia, but would be subject to the whims of the Chinese government that would persecute them due to their ethnicity.
After fleeing China, the Chinese government relentlessly pursues Uyghur refugees and uses its power and influence to pressure host countries into returning Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers. Once returned, they are subjected to enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, and other serious human rights violations. In the past 20 years, over 300 confirmed Uyghurs have been forcibly returned to China from 16 different countries. These numbers don’t include the Uyghurs who were secretly returned to China by neighboring states. These individuals were students, refugees, and asylum seekers. In 2014, 109 Uyghurs were returned to China from Thailand, and in 2018 at least 22 Uyghur students were forcibly returned to China from Egypt after Egyptian authorities rounded up approximately 200 Uyghur students in the country, likely at China’s request. A Uyghur asylum seeker was mistakenly expelled from Germany in 2018, after an administrative error. Despite efforts by lawyers and the German government, the Chinese government refused to return him. He disappeared for 6 months and was sentenced to an extended jail sentence under false charges. Hundreds of Uyghur refugees have disappeared in this way.
We would like to draw attention to the fact that both the Swedish and German governments have enacted policies to halt all deportations of Uyghurs (and other Turkic Muslims) from their respective countries until further notice because of the horrendous conditions on the ground for Uyghurs in China. Three resolutions from the European Parliament have also noted the immense risk Uyghurs refugees and asylum seekers are facing, called on EU member states to refrain from returning Uyghurs to China and commended Sweden and Germany for implementing their moratoriums. The Malaysian government has also announced that it will not return any Uyghur refugees to China.
The WUC would like to remind the Indonesian government that forcibly returning refugees to the country they fled from, when they are at risk of severe human rights violations and persecution due to their ethnic identity, is a violation of international law and the principle of non-refoulement. Their deportations would essentially be condemning them to a life of suffering, mistreatment and possibly an early death. We strongly urge the Indonesian government to not return any Uyghurs refugees to China. If the Indonesian government has indeed already deported these four individuals, it should be held accountable.