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24-08-11, 19:19
Hunting Uighurs Across Asia
China outsources human rights abuses to its neighbors.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904875404576528112717595344.html?m od=googlenews_wsj


Last week the Malaysian government deprived 11 Chinese citizens of their right to seek refugee status and deported them back to China. That Kuala Lumpur failed to honor its obligations to respect refugee rights is no surprise: The men were Uighurs, an ethnic minority who had fled the restive territory of Xinjiang to escape political persecution.

Over the last several years, East Asian and Central Asian countries have bowed to Beijing's pressure and returned Uighurs to China with no questions asked. Once there, they disappear into the prison system where they are often tortured and can face execution.

The trend seems to be accelerating. Earlier this month Thailand deported a Uighur man, Nur Muhammed, and Pakistan sent back five Uighurs, including a mother and two small children. Vietnam, Laos, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have also repatriated Uighurs in recent years.

In 2009, Cambodian officials assured the U.S. ambassador that they would not repatriate a group of Uighur asylum-seekers, only days before the police took 20 of them at gun-point and put them on a "VIP plane" to China. China pledged the legal proceedings against them would be transparent but reneged on that promise. Two days later, it granted Cambodia $1.2 billion in aid, more than the cumulative total in the previous 17 years.

Beijing has similarly used the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group of Central Asian states of which China is the de facto leader, as a carrot to secure the return of Uighurs fleeing from Xinjiang. After the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) granted refugee status to journalist Ershidin Israil in Kazakhstan, he was cleared to settle in Sweden. Instead in May the Kazakh authorities sent him back to China, where he was charged with terrorism.

The growing Uighur exodus has followed the riots in the Xinjiang capital in July 2009, which prompted the crackdown on Uighurs that is driving them abroad. Two weeks ago, Beijing announced a new "strike hard" campaign against "the three evils": terrorism, "splittism" and extremism. The authorities equate the three, meaning that anyone who expresses dissatisfaction with Chinese rule is treated as a terrorist. Uighurs have resorted to a variety of means to flee, including forged documents, assistance of NGOs, and other means that are familiar to persecuted people.

Five more Uighurs are still in Malaysian detention, but at least the UNHCR has already begun to look at their cases. That should make it harder for Kuala Lumpur to summarily deport them, especially if it wants to salvage an agreement with Australia on asylum-seekers, which was thrown into jeopardy by last week's violation. Kuala Lumpur still insists that all of the Uighurs are human traffickers rather than refugees, but that raises the question of why the authorities didn't prosecute them.

China is using its diplomatic and economic clout to outsource its human rights abuses against Uighurs to its neighbors' territories. But even as it extends the reach of its secret police, it is also giving those neighbors an education in the ruthlessness of its methods. It's no wonder that they are increasingly worried by China's rise.