Nearly a year after the worst riots in China’s far west in more than a decade, his story and that of another asylum seeker interviewed by The Associated Press are among the few accounts to emerge of how some Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) got out amid a government crackdown.
At least 300 Uighurs are thought to have fled China since the July unrest, according to the World Uyghur Congress. Some slipped illegally into neighboring countries in Central Asia, which regularly extradite Uighurs back to China. Others with more money, such as Vali, paid thousands of dollars to criminal gangs and smugglers for plane tickets and visas.
China says some Uighurs are terrorists or criminals who pose a threat to the region’s safety, and has previously insisted that Uighur refugees be extradited back. Foreign governments weary of immigrants and wary of offending China are often unwelcoming or play down the presence of Uighurs.
…The two Uighurs in Holland told the AP of the fear of being ensnared by a crackdown that has detained hundreds, often unaccounted for months later. Chinese media reports say at least 25 people, mostly Uighurs, have been tried and sentenced to death for crimes related to the riots.
The Uighurs told their stories on condition that only their last names be used, citing fears of retaliation against their families. Now they wait to see if they will be granted asylum – or sent home.