The rippling consequences of last July’s unrest in Xinjiang continues. Along with rampant arrests, and quite a few executions of those held responsible, it’s an understatement to say that this year was hard on Xinjiang. Exasperated by last summer’s syringe attacks, the crackdown on Uighurs “terrorists” goes on.
What’s the latest? Moving under the radar, Uighurs are quietly slipping out of China, to the chagrin of officials looking for them. The World Uyghur Congress (led by the exiled Rebiya Kadeer) estimates that at least 300 Uighurs have fled — although given the organization’s interests, the number should be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, the Uighur’s movements have been the source of tension in global immigration policies.
According to the AP, China has called for the extradition of Uighur refugees. Many countries oblige. Others simply play down the number of incoming Uighurs.
Cambodia sent back 20 Uighur refugees to China in December despite international protests. Turkey, which has strong ethnic and linguistic ties to the group, has eased entry requirements, but its government is reluctant to talk about the influx of dozens of Uighurs.
For the fleeing Uighurs, where they go has been a matter of providence. Many were only able to slip into surrounding countries with increased risk of deportation. Some, with enough money, have managed to flee to Holland. The AP spoke with one of them, 22-year old Vali, whose car was photographed at the riots. The police had come looking for him at his home before he left.
“Once I got off the plane, I told the police that I need political asylum,” Vali said in a phone interview. “I told them everything that I had been through and said I can no longer live in China. If I have to go back I am a hundred percent sure that I will be dead.”
Another story came from 29-year-old Patiguli, who also fled to Holland.
Patiguli, 29, hid at home during the riots, fearing for her boyfriend, who had called to say he was joining the demonstrations, as well as her grandmother, who was outside.
When police found her boyfriend at her home a few days after the unrest, they also detained Patiguli and her brother, holding them in separate locations and interrogating them for six days. Her mother, a businesswoman, had to bribe officials to secure the release of the siblings.
Patiguli never saw or heard from her boyfriend again.
The Chinese government has repeatedly said that the citizen’s rights would be fully protected, but is adamant about their return.
“The Chinese government resolutely opposes any country accepting illegal immigrants, for any reason,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Friday in a written response to a request for comment.
The stories, at least, have certainly shined a new light on issues that officials would like swept under the rug (take your pick: Xinjiang, Uighurs, political prisoners). The last AP heard was that Holland was reluctant to grant asylum status. What will happen to the AWOL Uighurs remains to be seen.