Washington: The Chinese government has been accused of waging "a harsh campaign of suppression" in its troubled northwest Xinjiang province, as a top bipartisan US panel asked Beijing to reveal the whereabouts and status of 11 Uyghur men forcibly deported from Malaysia.
"Forced returns of Uyghurs to China reflect a blatant disregard for international law, not only by the countries deporting Uyghurs, but by the Chinese government, which is complicit in their return and responsible for egregious rights abuses within its borders," said Congressman Chris Smith, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).
Senator Sherrod Brown, co-chair of the commission, said the Chinese government "has long waged a harsh campaign of suppression in Xinjiang that violates international law and it appears to have conscripted its neighbors to help carry out its oppressive policies".
The bipartisan and bicameral commission, which is mandated to monitor human rights in China, on Wednesday appealed to the Chinese authorities to reveal whereabouts and status of 11 Uyghur men who were forcibly deported from Malaysia.
Brown said this most recent incident follows other cases in the past year of Uyghurs returned to China under the sway of Chinese influence in nearby countries.
"They come as China has increased its economic and political reach throughout Asia, concluding large trade deals or aid packages with countries that have deported Uyghur refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants," he said.
Brown said "tragically, the deported Uyghur men face the real threat of torture, arbitrary detention, and abuse back in China".
"These are deliberate, intentional acts and part of a broader set of policies that threaten the Uyghur culture, religion, and language," he said.
Malaysian authorities arrested the group of 16 Uyghurs on August 6. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kuala Lumpur said they did not allow the UNHCR access to any members of the group.
The five who remain in Malaysian custody have formally sought asylum with the UNHCR, a press statement said. The two US lawmakers noted that on August 8, authorities in Pakistan forcibly returned five Uyghurs, including two children, to China.
On August 6, authorities in Thailand detained a Uyghur man, Nur Muhammed, and turned him over to Chinese authorities in Bangkok.
Advocates of Uyghur self-rule has blamed Beijing for exaggerating the influence of terror groups and the authorities tough policies have only deepened the community's anger by smothering peaceful protest.
Xinjiang has over 10 million Muslim Uyghurs, a Turkic, largely Islamic people who share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia. Many resent the Chinese mainland Hans economic dominance in Xinjiang. The province has been witnessing tensions between Uyghurs and Hans for the past few years.
About 200 people were killed and hundreds injured in riots in 2009.