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China warns Swiss asylum for Uighurs will harm ties

February 5, 2010

The Associated Press (AP)
February 4, 2010

BEIJING -- China said Thursday that a Swiss
government decision to approve the resettlement
of two Chinese inmates at the Guantanamo Bay
detention center would harm relations between the countries.

The Swiss government on Wednesday approved the
resettlement of the two, who are brothers from
the ethnic Uighur minority, as part of its
commitment to help President Barack Obama's
administration close the much-criticized
detention center that holds "enemy combatants"
captured in the war on terrorism.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a
regular news conference Thursday that the
decision "will surely undermine Chinese-Swiss relations."

Ma said the brothers were members of a group
called the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which
China has called a terrorist outfit.

Beijing has demanded that the brothers, and other
Uighurs held in Guantanamo, be sent back to
China. However, the Obama administration has
sought to resettle them in third countries out of
worry that Uighurs might be persecuted back home.

Ma did not say what action, if any, China would take against Switzerland.

Switzerland's justice minister said the decision
to take in the Uighur brothers was guided by
humanitarian principles and should not be
interpreted as giving preference to one country over another.

"We have stable, good relations with China and we
want to keep them that way," Justice Minister
Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told reporters in the Swiss capital, Bern.

China's western region of Xinjiang has been tense
in recent years. Nearly 200 people were killed
last July in China's worst ethnic riots in
decades. Beijing accuses overseas Uighur groups
of being behind the violence, while Uighurs say
they have faced discrimination by China's majority Han population.

The brothers, who have been held in Guantanamo
since being captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and
2002, will probably be transferred to Switzerland
within a month, she said. In January, an Uzbek
became the first former inmate of the U.S.
detention center to be resettled in Switzerland.

Six other Uighurs went to the Pacific island
nation of Palau last year. Another four were resettled in Bermuda.
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