Statement of CECC Chairman Christopher Smith and Cochairman Sherrod Brown on Uyghurs Forcibly Returned to China

Congressional-Executive Commission on China |

Statement of CECC Chairman Christopher Smith and Cochairman Sherrod Brown on Uyghurs Forcibly Returned to China

August 30, 2011

(Washington, DC)—The chairman and cochairman of a US bipartisan, bicameral commission charged with monitoring human rights in China today called on Chinese authorities to reveal the whereabouts and status of 11 Uyghur men who were forcibly deported from Malaysia to the People's Republic of China on August 18, in violation of international law.

The American lawmakers also strongly urged Malaysian authorities not to deport the five Uyghur asylum seekers who were arrested and remain in Malaysian custody.

"Forced returns of Uyghurs to China reflect a blatant disregard for international law, not only by the countries deporting Uyghurs, but by the Chinese government, which is complicit in their return and responsible for egregious rights abuses within its borders," said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), the chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).

"This most recent incident follows other cases in the past year of Uyghurs returned to China under the sway of Chinese influence in nearby countries. They come as China has increased its economic and political reach throughout Asia, concluding large trade deals or aid packages with countries that have deported Uyghur refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants," said Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) cochair of the commission.

"Tragically, the deported Uyghur men face the real threat of torture, arbitrary detention, and abuse back in China," Brown said. "The Chinese government has long waged a harsh campaign of suppression in Xinjiang that violates international law and it appears to have conscripted its neighbors to help carry out its oppressive policies. These are deliberate, intentional acts and part of a broader set of policies that threaten the Uyghur culture, religion, and language."

"The Chinese government claims compliance with international law, but its actions speak louder than its words. The Chinese government must end its oppressive policies toward the Uyghurs, stop enlisting its neighbors in its campaigns of suppression, respect the asylum seeker and refugee designations of the UNHCR, and ensure the fundamental rights and freedoms of all its citizens," Smith said.

Malaysian authorities arrested the group of 16 Uyghurs on August 6. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kuala Lumpur said that Malaysian authorities did not allow the UNHCR access to any members of the group. The five who remain in Malaysian custody have formally sought asylum with the UNHCR. Information on asylum claims by other members of the group remains unclear. Malaysian authorities allege that all members of the group were involved in a human trafficking ring, charges that do not preclude access to UNHCR procedures or permit deportation to China.

International law mandates that asylum seekers receive a determination of their refugee status and forbids returning any person to a country where she or he faces risk of torture. As documented by the CECC in its Annual Reports, torture and abuse by law enforcement officers remain widespread in China.

The two US lawmakers noted that on August 8, authorities in Pakistan forcibly returned five Uyghurs, including two children, to China. On August 6, authorities in Thailand detained a Uyghur man, Nur Muhammed, and turned him over to Chinese authorities in Bangkok.

CECC Annual Reports have noted worsening human rights conditions in Xinjiang in recent years, as authorities have increased oppressive security campaigns and cracked down on peaceful dissent and independent expressions of Uyghur cultural and religious identity.