UYGHUR AMERICAN ASSOCIATION CONDEMNS PATTERN OF UYGHUR REFUGEE REFOULEMENT FOLLOWING REPORTED DEPORTATIONS FROM MYANMAR
For immediate release
January 26, 2010, 12:30 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 349 1496
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemns the trend of the deportation of Uyghur refugees from countries near China, following reports that 17 Uyghurs, together with one Han Chinese man, were deported last week from Myanmar. The Chinese news portal Sina.com reported on January 20 that the 18 individuals were handed over to Chinese authorities on January 18. UAA calls upon the Chinese government to clarify this news, and, if it is accurate, to publicize information about the current whereabouts and treatment of the deportees. In addition, UAA calls upon countries neighboring China to refrain from deporting Uyghurs to China, where they may be subjected to extremely harsh treatment.
“We ask the international community to take all possible measures to ascertain the current situation of these 18 people, and ensure that they are treated in accordance with international law,” said Uyghur democracy leader Rebiya Kadeer. “Chinese authorities insist that any Uyghurs who seek refuge in other countries are criminals, without offering any evidence to support their claims, and these Uyghurs are often never heard from again once back in China. Chinese officials refuse to acknowledge the plight of Uyghur refugees, because doing so would force them to admit the existence of the terrible conditions that cause Uyghurs to flee China in the first place.
The reported deportation from Myanmar comes in the wake of the December 2009 deportation of 20 Uyghur refugees from Cambodia who had fled a harsh crackdown on Uyghurs in East Turkestan after unrest in the regional capital of Urumchi in July 2009. The 20 Uyghurs were in the process of applying for asylum as refugees at the UNHCR office in Phnom Penh. In flagrant violation of its international obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and the UN Convention Against Torture, Cambodia allowed the deportations to take place on the eve of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to Phnom Penh, where he approved a deal worth more than $1 billion in aid and investment from China.
There has been no news on the fate of the 20 Uyghur refugees after their return from Cambodia to China, despite a multitude of calls from senior U.S. government officials, members of the European Parliament and UNHCR representatives to treat them with transparency and in accordance with due process of law. UAA fears that they face severe persecution, including possible lengthy imprisonment, torture, and possible execution.
According to the Sina.com article, all 18 people who were deported from Myanmar were residents of East Turkestan. Only one of the deportees, Aygul Tursun, is listed as female, although the names of two other deportees, Muhabbat Yasin and Senewer Ablikim, are traditionally given to females as well.
Sino-Burmese relations have trod a complex, often tense path in recent decades, with much tension focused on border stability between the two nations. The Chinese government was angered by a flow of 37,000 refugees from Myanmar in August 2009, following a Burmese military crackdown on a rebel group. Officials in Beijing are worried about the prospect of similar attacks on the rebel group in the future. Border concerns exist against a backdrop of flourishing Sino-Burmese trade, which, according to Reuters, reached $2.63 billion in 2008. Reuters also reports that a Chinese state-owned oil company has begun building a crude oil port in the region, allowing China to both alleviate geopolitical concerns and shorten the path through which it imports oil.
A new gas line cutting through Central Asian nations to East Turkestan, opened in December 2009, has raised the stakes for China’s Central Asian neighbors, who want to avoid displeasing China, and has heightened concerns about the conditions faced by Uyghurs who flee to these countries. In recent years, China’s deepening political and economic relationship with the Central Asian members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has meant that these countries have provided no quarter to Uyghurs fleeing persecution in East Turkestan, and refoulement of Uyghurs has often been assisted by Chinese authorities working in these nations. Numerous Uyghurs have “disappeared” or been extradited from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in recent years. Little reliable information is available on their fate upon being returned to Chinese authorities.
Even those neighboring states with which the Chinese government does not have formal extradition agreements are subject to intense pressure to return Uyghur asylum seekers. For instance, in late 2001 and early 2002, the Nepalese authorities forcibly returned at least two Uyghurs – possibly three – to the Chinese authorities in East Turkestan. One of these men, Shaheer Ali, was executed in or around October 2003.
On January 13, Chinese state media announced a near doubling of the security budget for East Turkestan, which UAA fears will broaden the scope of the ongoing official repression of Uyghurs and exacerbate ethnic tensions in the region. Official statements regarding the increase in funding for regional security were coupled with an ominous pledge from regional government chairman Nur Bekri to persist in a crackdown on Uyghur separatists and the three forces of “terrorism, separatism and extremism”.
In the wake of the unrest in Urumchi in July of last year, Chinese authorities have implemented a multi-faceted crackdown on the Uyghur people. More than 130,000 troops were reportedly deployed to East Turkestan from other regions of China. Twenty-two people, the vast majority Uyghurs, have been sentenced to death in regional courts following politicized trials, and state media reported in November that nine of these individuals had been executed
Mass arrests and detentions of Uyghurs have been carried out through security sweeps and targeted raids. Authorities launched a “100-day campaign” in September 2009 to capture “suspects” in connection with the July 2009 events, and a “Strike Hard” campaign two months later to continue detentions of people deemed suspects in the July unrest.
Names of those deported from Myanmar, as reported on Sina.com (http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_5db540090100g0un.html, in Chinese):
1. Akbar Sadik, male, born 1966
2. Mamutjan Kerim, male, born 1976
3. Gheni Ayup, male, 1978
4. Yahya Kadir, male, 1966
5. Habibulla Yasin, male, 1973
6. Turghun Abla, male, 1964
7. Mamut Sadir, male, 1975
8. Muhabbat Yasin, male, 1963
9. Aygul Tursun, female, 1976
10. Iminjan Ismail, male, 1980
11. Askar Awut, male, 1983
12. Tursun Tiliwaldi, male, 1968
13. Abdureshit Rozi, male, 1964
14. Kawser Aziz, male, 1973
15. Zhang Chengdong, Han nationality, male, 1970
16. Senewer Ablikim, male, 1978
17. Hekim Yasin, male, 1966
18. Abullah Nurmemet, male, 1973