China's Guantanamo inmates bound for new life in Pacific paradise
Thursday 11 June 2009
They were plucked from their ancient Silk Road home in central Asia eight years ago and sent to Guantanamo Bay as part of the "war on terror". Now cleared of being enemy combatants, the 17 Chinese Uighurs, who once lived about as far away from the ocean as it is possible to live, find themselves bound for a new life on the remote Pacific island of Palau.
The 1.6 million sq km of their home province, Xinjiang, is a major earthquake zone, which includes three deserts as well as the famed ancient trade route; the 350-island archipelago of Palau was only founded in 1994, has just 20,000 inhabitants and is a renowned scuba diving destination.
The relocation will be the biggest single release of Guantanamo detainees to date, and a major relief to US President Barack Obama, who has been searching for a way to resolve the prisoners' situation since he declared his intention to close the American military camp.
The transfer is not expected to be permanent. Palau's President Johnson Toribiong said it would be an act of compassion, and an affirmation of his country's bonds with the US. "This is but a small thing we can do to thank our best friend and ally for all it has done for Palau," President Toribiong said. Washington is set to donate $200m when a long-standing co-operation treaty is negotiated later this year.
The Uighurs, Chinese Muslims who come from an isolated region near the Afghan border, were cleared of being enemy combatants last September. But the Chinese government accuses the men of being separatists, and it is feared they could be persecuted if sent home.
Fears of souring diplomatic relations with Beijing have made it difficult for the US to find willing hosts. Albania accepted five Uighurs in 2006, but has refused to accept further detainees. But Palau is well placed to accept the men because it is also allied to Taiwan, and does not recognise China.
Top Un: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un is Maverick as he poses with all-female pilot crew of the Anti-Air Force Unit
Belle Knox: How the porn star student from Duke University became bigger than Justin Bieber
Top 10 most expensive cities in the world: Singapore named costliest place to live – but what about London?
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete 'cheated on me' with Reeva Steenkamp, former girlfriend Samantha Taylor tells Pretoria court
Channel 4 announces two-hour TV show to be broadcast 'Live from Space' later this month
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 3 Italian pensioner hires an escort who turns out to be his son's girlfriend
- 4 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 5 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role to marry Natasha Richardson
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...