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China to Switzerland: Do Not Resettle Guantanamo Uighurs

  • Stephanie Ho

Detainees stand during an early morning Islamic prayer at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (2009 file photo)

Detainees stand during an early morning Islamic prayer at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (2009 file photo)

China is calling on Switzerland and other countries not to accept Uighurs from the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It says they are criminals and should be returned to China to face punishment.


When he became U.S. president, Barack Obama ordered the Guantanamo detention facility closed within a year. That deadline is now fast approaching.

Of the prisoners who remain at Guantanamo, U.S. authorities will have a difficult time resettling the seven Uighurs who are still there.

The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Chinese Muslim minority. Beijing has not wasted any opportunity to assert its claim to decide what happens to the Guantanamo Uighurs.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu Tuesday repeated her country's opposition to either the freeing of the Guantanamo Uighurs or their transfer to a third country.

Jiang says China also considers the Guantanamo Uighurs members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is on the United Nations list of terrorist groups. She says, instead of freeing them, they should be handed over to Chinese authorities for, in her words, "legal treatment."

Uighurs from Guantanamo have been resettled to Albania, Bermuda and Palau. The United States has refused to send them back to China or grant them U.S. refugee status.

The latest country to consider taking in two of the Uighurs is Switzerland.

The Chinese spokeswoman called on Bern to take into consideration China's concerns.

Jiang says she hopes Switzerland can consider overall bilateral relations and refuse to accept any Uighur suspects from Guantanamo Bay.

Swiss officials say there has been no final decision.

Last month, Cambodia returned to China more than 20 Uighurs who had fled to Cambodia to seek refugee status, following strong protest from the Chinese government. The Uighurs had left their homeland, Xinjiang, in western China, following deadly ethnic riots in July that left nearly 200 people dead.

China accuses some Uighurs of seeking an independent homeland. Uighurs accuse the Chinese government of discrimination and repression.

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