EU urged not to forcibly return Turkic Muslims to China

Rights group asks European Union member countries to appreciate risks faced by those being sent back
EU urged not to forcibly return Turkic Muslims to China

Ethnic Uyghurs take part in a protest march asking for the European Union to call upon China to respect human rights in the Chinese Xinjiang region and asking for the closure of "re-education center" where some Uyghurs are detained, during a demonstration around the EU institutions in Brussels on April 27. (Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

European Union member countries should not forcibly return Turkic Muslims to China without providing a full and fair individualized examination of their risk of being ill-treated there, said a leading rights organization on Dec. 3 in a letter to EU foreign and interior ministers.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement that EU governments should also expedite asylum claims of Turkic Muslims from China and investigate and address the Chinese government’s intimidation of Turkic Muslim diaspora communities.

"Some EU member countries have saved Turkic Muslims from harm by suspending their return to China," said Lotte Leicht, EU director. "But this should be an EU-wide position until China ends its widespread repression in Xinjiang."

In the letter, HRW said that they have documented instances of forced returns of ethnic Uyghurs to China from Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand, among others.

"All are at grave risk of further abuses and few if any of those forced back have been heard from again. Some are known to have been prosecuted and ill-treated in detention," said the letter.

Over the past year, HRW has documented a spiraling human rights crisis in Xinjiang. It includes the establishment of "political education" camps in which credible reports suggest that up to 1 million people are arbitrarily detained.

HRW also documented torture and ill-treatment in these and other detention facilities, and severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and religion.

The Chinese government’s latest "Strike Hard" campaign does not stop at China’s borders. Authorities harass Turkic Muslim communities around the world, often in an attempt to compel people to return.

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