Join our Mailing List

"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

China: Account for Uighur Refugees Forcibly Repatriated to China

January 30, 2010

Refugees Described Past Torture Before Return
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
January 29, 2010

New York, Jan 29 -- The Chinese government should
disclose the status and whereabouts of ethnic
Uighurs repatriated against their will from
Cambodia and allow the United Nations, lawyers,
and family members to meet with them, Human Rights Watch said today.

On December 19, 2009, the Cambodian government,
under Chinese pressure, forcibly repatriated a
group of 20 Uighurs, including two young
children, in breach of the UN Convention Relating
to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol,
and the UN Convention Against Torture and Other
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, to which Cambodia is a party.

"Uighur asylum seekers sent back to China by
Cambodia have disappeared into a black hole,"
said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at
Human Rights Watch. “There is no information
about their whereabouts, no notification of any
legal charges against them, and there are no
guarantees they are safe from torture and ill-treatment.”

China’s record of torture, disappearance, and
arbitrary detention of Uighurs, as well as the
politicized nature of judicial proceedings in
past cases of forced repatriation, raise serious
concerns that these individuals are currently at
risk of torture and ill-treatment.

In mid-January, Human Rights Watch received an
unconfirmed report that some of the Uighurs
forcibly deported from Cambodia the previous
month have already been sentenced by a court in
the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China,
with some defendants sentenced to death. Although
such quick sentencing would appear to be unusual,
the Chinese government’s failure to provide any
information about the fate of the group makes it
impossible to know whether the report is accurate.

"The Chinese government should immediately make a
public statement about the whereabouts and status
of the Uighurs repatriated from Cambodia, and
allow the UN and family members to meet with
them," said Richardson. "Family members have the
right to know what has happened to their loved ones."

Chinese authorities have a history of executing
or harshly sentencing Uighurs forcibly repatriated from neighboring countries:

* In February 2007, Ismail Semed, a Uighur who
had been forcibly repatriated from Pakistan, was
executed under separatism and terrorism charges.

* In October 2003, Shaheer Ali, also known as
Shirali, was executed, also under terrorism
charges, after the Nepali authorities had
deported him in January 2002. He had left a
detailed testimony of the torture he had endured while in detention in 2001.

* There were also credible allegations of torture
in the case of Hussein Celil, a Uighur refugee
who had acquired Canadian citizenship and had
been deported at China’s request by Uzbek
authorities in June 2006. The Chinese government
refused to recognize Celil’s Canadian citizenship
or to allow Canadian diplomats to visit him or
attend his trial. He was sentenced in April 2007
to life imprisonment on terrorism charges after
having been coerced into signing a confession, according to his family.

In December 2009, Chinese authorities labeled the
group of Uighur asylum-seekers in Cambodia
"criminals" and indicated that many were wanted
for their participation in ethnic unrest in
Urumqi in July 2009 and other incidents. No
evidence to support these allegations was provided.

While applying for refugee status in Cambodia,
some of the individuals provided detailed
accounts of past torture and persecution by
Chinese security forces, as well as threats and
acts of retaliation against their families if they did not turn themselves in.

One man described having been detained and beaten
in police custody following a peaceful demonstration in Xinjiang.

Another member of the group gave a detailed
account of his torture and mistreatment in a
detention facility in Urumqi in 2007, including
being slapped, kicked in the head and stomach,
hit on the head with wooden clubs by prison
guards, who also authorized him being beaten unconscious by cell-mates.

A third man told of being arrested in 2008 for
teaching people about Muslim religious practices.
He was beaten by police with a shovel and hung by
his handcuffed hands to window bars for hours.

A fourth man described police arresting and
slapping him when he was a teenager for praying
in his home and the persecution of his family,
including confiscation of their farmland, after
they refused to comply with a program designed to
send unmarried youths to work in factories in eastern China.

A number of men in the group expressed deep fears
about their security if they were returned to
China because they had witnessed the violence in Urumqi on July 5, 2009.

Human Rights Watch said that the protests of July
5-7, 2009, in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi were
one of the worst episodes of ethnic violence in
China in decades. The unrest appears to have been
sparked by an attack on Uighurs in the southeast
part of the country, which served as a rallying
cry for Uighurs angry over longstanding
discriminatory policies in Xinjiang. The
initially peaceful Uighur demonstration quickly
turned into a violent attack against Han Chinese,
leaving scores dead or injured.

Instead of launching an impartial investigation
into the July 2009 incidents in accordance with
international and domestic standards, Chinese law
enforcement agencies carried out a massive
campaign of arrests in the Uighur areas of
Urumqi. Official figures suggest that the number
of people detained by the security forces in
connection with the protests has reached well
over a thousand people. Fourteen people,
including Han and Uighurs, have been sentenced to
death so far. The trials related to the July
violence, like many trials in China, fell short
of minimum standards for the administration of
justice, with restrictions on legal
representation, pre-determined verdicts, and the
failure to publicly announce or hold open trials as mandated by law.

Human Rights Watch also expressed concern about
reports that a group of 17 Uighurs was deported
from the northern Shan state of Burma on January
18, 2010. The men, along with one ethnic Han
Chinese, were allegedly handed over at the
Ruili-Muse border crossing into Yunnan province,
on the Burma-China border, by security officials
of the Shan State Special Region 2, a
semi-autonomous border zone controlled by the
United Wa State Army that has maintained a
cease-fire agreement with the central Burmese authorities since 1989.

"The Chinese government must treat all returnees
humanely, ensure fair trials, and not persecute
individuals for activities and speech that are
protected under international law," Richardson
said. "Until China complies fully with these
standards, we urge other governments to stop all
deportations of Uighurs to China."

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on China, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In Hong Kong, Nicholas Bequelin (English, French,
Mandarin): +852-8198-1040 (mobile)
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-7908-728-333 (mobile)
In New York, Elaine Pearson (English):
+1-212-216-1213; or +1-646-291-7169 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English,
Mandarin): +1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank