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Friday, December 18, 2009

Cambodia to send 20 Uighurs back to China

WASHINGTON : Cambodia is sending 20 Chinese Muslims who fled there after July unrest in Xinjiang back to China where they face possible persecution, a US-based Uighur rights organization said Friday.

The group has been taken to the Phnom Penh airport and is about to be put on a plane to Shanghai, said Henryk Szadziewski of the Uighur Human Rights Project in Washington.

"There is a plane ready to take them away," he said, adding that his organization had received the information from local sources in Cambodia. No officials could be immediately contacted for comment.

The group arrived at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office after fleeing deadly unrest in northwest China's Xinjiang region and their presence in Phnom Penh was first made public two weeks ago.

The clashes between Xinjiang's Muslim Uighur community and China's majority Han ethnic group left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 injured, according to an official toll.

Amnesty International urged Cambodia earlier this week not to deport the group, earlier said to total 22 Uighurs, which is seeking UN refugee status in Cambodia, saying they risked torture at home in China.

The right group's appeal came after China warned Tuesday that UN refugee programmes "should not be a haven for criminals" and said the 22 Uighurs, including three children, were involved in criminal activity.

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