Chinese Muslims trigger public backlash in Palau

The tiny Pacific nation of Palau's decision to allow 13 Chinese Muslims from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to resettle there has sparked anger among islanders who fear for the safety of the tranquil tourist haven.

The US government determined last year that the Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, were not enemy combatants and should be released from the US military prison in Cuba. China has objected to their resettlement, calling the men "terrorist suspects" and demanding they be sent home.

The US has said it fears the men would be executed if they were returned to China.

Palau President Johnson Toribiong explained his decision to grant the Uighurs entry as traditional hospitality, but public opinion has appeared overwhelmingly negative. Some complained Friday that the government failed to consult the people.

"I totally disagree" with allowing the Uighurs onto Palau, Natalia Baulis, a 30-year-old mother of two, told The Associated Press by telephone.

"It's good to be humanitarian and all, but still these people ... to me are scary," she said.

The Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs) have been in custody since they were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001.

Fermin Nariang, editor of the Palau newspaper Island Times, said he had been stopped in the streets of the capital, Koror, by residents venting their anger.

"This is a very small country ... and some are saying if the whole world doesn't want these folks, why are we taking them?" Nariang said.

The newspaper quoted islander Debedebk Mongami as saying, "I'm also afraid this news is going to scare the tourists who plan to come to Palau."

The Palau Chamber of Commerce, which represents the country's multimillion dollar hotel industry, did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

Toribiong has denied the move was influenced by any massive aid package from Washington, saying instead that the Uighurs had become "international vagabonds" who deserved a fresh start.

"Palau's people are always on the side of the U.S. government," Toribiong said.

He said Palau would send a delegation to Guantanamo to assess the Uighur detainees. It was unclear when this would happen or when the Uighurs would arrive in the island nation.

Four other Uighurs left Guantanamo Bay for a new home in Bermuda on Thursday. Some residents of the North Atlantic island were also unhappy, with dozens unleashing their anger on the Facebook page of a local newspaper, The Royal Gazette.

Even Britain, which handles Bermuda's defense, security and foreign affairs, expressed displeasure at the deal.

The British Foreign Office complained that Bermuda's leaders failed to consult "whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue for which the Bermuda government do not have delegated responsibility."

Although the Pentagon said the 17 Uighurs were not enemy combatants, the Obama administration has faced fierce congressional opposition to allowing them into the U.S. as free men. China says no other country should take them.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference that the U.S. should "stop handing over terrorist suspects to any third country, so as to expatriate them to China at an early date." He did not say if China would take any action in response.

Toribiong said Palau did not consider China's reaction when it accepted the U.S. request to temporarily resettle the detainees.

Palau has eight main islands and more than 250 islets, and is a former U.S. trust territory that has retained close ties with the United States since independence in 1994.

Some 20,000 people live in Palau, a predominantly Christian nation.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    KS2 Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We have a key stage 2 cla...

    Year 6 Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Does a year 6 class of 16 ...

    Subject Leader of ICT & Computing

    £21588 - £36756 per annum + negotiable: Randstad Education Chelmsford: ICT/Com...

    ICT/Computing Teacher

    £21588 - £36756 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: ICT/Computing Teache...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil