- More than 100 Chinese Muslim Uighurs have been deported from Thailand
- It is claimed they were on their way to wage jihad in Iraq, Syria or Turkey
- A group of 173 sent to Turkey after Thailand determined they were Turkish
- But the remaining 109 were determined to be Chinese, it was claimed
- Uighurs in China’s far west have complained of harsh treatment by Beijing
The Chinese government claims more than 100 minority Muslim Uighurs who were sent back from Thailand to China after fleeing the country were on their way to wage jihad in the Middle East.
The 109 ‘illegal immigrants’ had been on their way ‘to join jihad’ in Turkey, Syria or Iraq, and 13 of them had fled China after being implicated in terrorist activities, it was reported.
Images broadcast on Chinese television showed the suspects sat hooded and bound as they were flown back to an undisclosed location in China.
The Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority in China’s far western region of Xinjiang, have complained of harsh cultural and religious suppression under Chinese rule.
However, Beijing has accused Uighur separatists of terrorism in Xinjiang, where ethnic violence has left hundreds of people dead.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency said a Chinese police investigation had uncovered several gangs recruiting people for jihad.
The Uighurs were detained in Thailand more than a year ago, but claimed to be Turkish.
A group of 173 were sent to Turkey after Thai authorities said they determined they were indeed Turkish, but the remaining 109 were found to be Chinese, according to Thai deputy government spokesman Major General Verachon Sukhonthapatipak.
Another eight arrived from Thailand to Turkey on Saturday and 52 remaining Uighurs would be sent back to their country once their nationalities were verified, Verachon said Saturday.
Xinhua News Agency said many of the 109 Uighurs had been radicalized by materials sent by the exiled World Uyghur Congress, a Germany-based rights group for the ethnic minority, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, designated by China as a terrorist organization.
In response to the report, Dilxat Raxit, World Uyghur Congress spokesman, said Sunday that China was ‘shirking responsibility for Uighurs fleeing because of its policy of suppression.
‘The so-called radicals are those who hope to flee China and live a stable and dignified life in a safe and free country.’
Thailand has been harshly criticized by the U.N., the European Union and human rights groups for repatriating the 109 Uighurs back to China, where activists say they face persecution, instead of sending them to Turkey, which has accepted other Uighurs.