View Full Version : China criticizes US handling of Uighur detainees

12-05-06, 12:09
BEIJING (Reuters) - A former leader of China's far western region of Xinjiang criticized the United States on Friday for allowing five Chinese Muslims released from Guantanamo Bay to seek asylum in Albania.

Ismail Amat, a vice-chairman of China's parliament and formerly a senior Communist Party official in the Central Asia border region that is home to the country's Muslim Uighur minority, said the men should have been released into Chinese custody.

"The way the U.S. has handled this case is not right," Amat told reporters on the sidelines of a news conference.

The United States said last week the men had been released from nearly four years of U.S. military detention but it declined to return them to China out of concern they would face persecution. Instead, they were flown to Albania.

China's Foreign Ministry has protested to the United States and Albania over the issue.

Beijing has waged a campaign in Xinjiang against what it says are Islamic extremists and says the men are connected to a group agitating for an independent "East Turkestan".

Amat said the cases would be handled according to the law if they were returned, but repeatedly referred to them as terrorists.

He also said they had received training under the Taliban in Afghanistan, indicating that despite being cleared of charges in Guantanamo, China still viewed them as suspects.

Uighurs, whose language and culture are similar to those of Turkic peoples in Cental Asia, have chafed at Beijing's controls on religion and culture in Xinjiang, sparking occasional violence in the oil-rich region.

But human rights groups say China has used its support for the U.S.-led war on terror to justify a wider crackdown on Uighurs characterized by arbitrary arrests, closed trials and the use of the death penalty.