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Deportation of Uyghurs from Malaysia continues a disturbing trend of states bowing to Chinese pressure
For immediate release
August 22, 2011, 6:20 pm EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478 1920
The Uyghur American Association (UAA) condemns in the strongest possible terms the deportation of 11 Uyghurs from Malaysia on August 18, and calls upon the international community to raise the case of the remaining Uyghur asylum seekers, who are currently in danger of being deported from Malaysia to China. The deportation constitutes a flagrant violation of international law on the part of Malaysian officials, and follows an extremely disturbing trend of Uyghurs deported from countries with strong trade and diplomatic ties to China. The Uyghurs deported from Malaysia will be vulnerable to torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and execution in China.
Chinese officials have refused to release information about the fates of any of the Uyghurs who have been deported from other countries in recent years, meaning it is likely that no further news will be heard about the Uyghurs deported from Malaysia. The most recent deportation follows the August 8, 2011 deportation of five Uyghurs, including a woman and two young children, from Pakistan; the August 6, 2011 handing over of Uyghur Nur Muhammed from Thai authorities to Chinese officials, who likely deported him; the May 30, 2011 deportation of Uyghur refugee asylum seeker Ershidin Israel from Kazakhstan to China; seven Uyghurs who were deported from Laos in March 2010; 17 Uyghurs who were deported from Myanmar on January 18, 2010, and 19 Uyghurs who were deported from Cambodia on December 19, 2009.
UAA believes this is a horrific global trend that must be stopped. Uyghurs are now being deported at unprecedented numbers from countries that are susceptible to Chinese economic and diplomatic pressure, leaving them with nowhere to flee. Uyghurs are in urgent need of assistance from Western countries and international organizations, including the UNHCR and Interpol, to do more to ensure the protection of Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers. The international community cannot allow China’s fierce suppression of Uyghurs to keep extending its reach beyond China’s borders, as Uyghurs are forced to flee intense repression in East Turkestan.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the 11 Uyghurs who were deported were among 16 Uyghur men arrested by Malaysian authorities on August 6, 2011. One of the 11 men was reportedly married to a Malaysian woman. Amnesty International reported that they believed 18 to 24 Uyghur men, all in their 20s and 30s, had been arrested, although they stressed that the facts were unclear. Amnesty stated that some of the men had sought asylum at the UNHCR, and some of them had family members in Australia.
Malaysian authorities reportedly alleged that the 11 Uyghurs deported to China had been involved in human trafficking and were not refugees. However, the claims of criminality on the part of the Uyghurs are consistent with a pattern exhibited in the recent spate of the forcible deportation of Uyghurs from countries seeking Chinese favor, in that charges of criminal activity have not been substantiated by evidence. In addition, Malaysian authorities’ claim with regard to the refugee status of those deported cannot be independently confirmed, because the UNHCR was not granted access to the men before they were repatriated.
Malaysia, similar to other nations that have recently deported Uyghurs, has recently stepped up trade and economic ties with China. Sino-Malaysian trade reportedly reached 74.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2010, an increase of 42.8 percent over the previous year. China is currently Malaysia’s biggest trading partner, and the two sides are seeking to deepen trade and cultural ties in the wake of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Malaysia in April 2011.
Kazakhstan’s May 30 extradition of Uyghur Ershidin Israel occurred prior to a June 13 trade deal signed by Kazakhstan and China, under which the two sides agreed to double trade to 40 billion U.S. dollars over the next four years. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said at the time that “Kazakhstan was fully in agreement with China on the need to cooperate to combat what he called the “three evils” -- terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism.”
The deportation of 20 Uyghurs from Cambodia to China in December 2009, after they were arbitrarily labeled “criminals” by the Chinese government, took place just prior to a visit to Cambodia by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, during which he signed a US$1.2 billion economic aid agreement with the government in Phnom Penh.
Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have criticized Malaysia’s poor record in terms of how it treats asylum seekers. Malaysia has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, but this does not exempt it from international customary law, which stipulates that states may not expel individuals to a place where their life or freedom may be threatened due to their “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.
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