More than 100 Chinese Muslims could be executed or tortured after being deported from Thailand for reportedly trying to join jihadists in the Middle East.
According to China’s official Xinjua news agency, 109 members of the Muslim Uighur minority who fled China had “intended to join jihad” in Turkey, Syria or Iraq.
It cited a report by the ministry of public security, which said a Chinese police investigation had uncovered several gangs recruiting people to fight.
The 109 were originally part of a larger group of nearly 300 migrants who were detained by Thai authorities over a year ago. Another 173 people have been deported to Turkey.
Human rights groups, the UN and the EU have condemned the decision to deport the Uighur people to China where they face oppression.
Omer Kanat, the vice-chairman of the German based human rights group for the Uighur people, the World Uighur Congress told Al Jazeera that the allegations were “total lies”.
A spokesman for the group said 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."
Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East Asia regional director said, “Time and time again we have seen Uighurs returned to China disappearing into a black hole, with some detained, tortured and in some cases, sentenced to death and executed.”
Sunai Phasuk, a Thailand researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters: “By forcibly sending back at least 90 Uighurs, Thailand has violated international law. In China they can face serious abuses including torture and disappearance."
The World Uighur Congress said many of the group, which includes 20 women, now face torture and “maybe some will be executed.”
A further 67 Uighurs remain in Thailand because authorities have not decided what to do with them.
There around 10 million members of the Turkic speaking group, which is recognised as one of 56 ethnic minorities in China.
Mainly found in the western Xijiang province, which borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Mongolia, the area was primarily rural but development in the regions’ largest cities has brought in an influx of Han Chinese migrants.
Despite making up just 40 per cent of the population, according to a 2000 census, Han Chinese tend to get the best jobs and have the most money.
There are strict controls on Uighur cultural and religious traditions.In July 2014, some Xinjiang government departments banned Muslim civil servants from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, according to the BBC.
In response, Uighurs have periodically risen up in violent unrest or terror attacks such as an attack on a market in the state capital Urumqi in May last year where 31 people were killed.
Diplomatic relations between Turkey and China have become strained in recent weeks after 100 protesters were pepper sprayed by police in Ankara after a demonstration against Chinese treatment of Uighurs was held outside the embassy on Thursday.Reuse content