Uighurs deported before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's arrival Sunday for state visit to Cambodia
Cambodia has deported 20 Muslim Uighurs who fled China's northwest region after ethnic unrest earlier this year in Xinjiang province.
An Interior Ministry spokesman told reporters the Uighurs were placed aboard a Chinese aircraft that departed Cambodia Saturday.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Phnom Penh said earlier that the would-be refugees were being expelled because they entered Cambodia illegally.
As expected, the Uighurs were deported before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's arrival Sunday for a state visit to Cambodia.
The Uighurs arrived in Cambodia last month. Human-rights groups say they face possible torture and execution by Chinese authorities, who have already condemned to death at least 17 Uighurs as a result of July's deadly riots.
The disorders in Xinjiang, which pitted ethnic Uighurs against China's majority Han Chinese, killed nearly 200 people.
Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minority concentrated in western China. In complaints that echo those of many Tibetans, they say they are victims of discrimination and cultural and economic domination by the Han Chinese majority.
Christian missionaries helped 23 Uighurs reach Cambodia last month. The exiles had applied for refugee status at the Phnom Penh office of the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR).
Earlier this week, China denounced the Uighurs as suspected criminals who should not be allowed to use U.N. protection to escape punishment.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.