Press Release: Freedom House Condemns Pakistan, China for Uighur Extraditions – May 7, 2009
Freedom House condemns Pakistan’s recent decision to violate international law by handing over a group of Uighur exiles to the Chinese authorities. The case is a disturbing sign of China’s growing influence in the region and illustrates how vulnerable Uighurs, a Muslim minority group in Western China, are to persecution both inside and outside China.
Media reports and human rights groups say Pakistan extradited as many as nine Uighurs to China last month after accusing them of involvement in “terrorist activities.” China frequently uses the specters of terrorism and separatism to arrest, torture and even execute Uighurs who peacefully oppose communist rule. International law forbids the extradition of any individual to a country in which their safety cannot be guaranteed.
“Freedom House urges Pakistan and other countries to reject China’s use of bogus terrorism charges and protect Uighurs from persecution according to international law,” said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director.
In recent years, several Central Asian countries have entered into agreements and alliances with China’s government that have put Uighur refugees at risk, leading to several cases of repatriations and imprisonment. Pakistan currently has observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security organization founded in 2001 by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
“The repatriation of Uighurs by Pakistan is just the latest evidence of China’s increasing power in the region and its skillful use of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to persecute ethnic and religious minorities,” said Windsor.
China increased its repression of Uighurs in 2008, according to Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties. Cases of suspicious deaths while in custody, torture, execution and arrests continued throughout the year. In addition, Uighurs were forced to violate the basic tenets of their faith during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and were prevented from travelling by airplane in the period surrounding the Beijing Olympics.
The extradition case comes as the United States debates how to release 17 Uighurs held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility for years after they were cleared of terrorism charges. The Obama Administration says it cannot resettle them in their native China because of the risk of persecution, but is facing pushback from lawmakers who oppose releasing them in the United States.
“It is critical that the United States show a positive example by protecting these individuals who are no longer considered a threat to U.S. security,” said Windsor. “Resettlement in the United States or other countries where they will not face persecution is the only solution.”
China is ranked Not Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press. Pakistan is ranked Partly Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press. For more information on China and Pakistan, visit:
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in China and Pakistan since 1972.
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