Twenty Uighurs who fled China in the wake of rioting in Xinjiang in July 2009 were deported from Cambodia a year ago while waiting to receive asylum from the U.S. Since returning to China, they have not been accounted for by the government. The New York Times reports:
Until now Beijing has refused to provide any information about the Uighurs — men, boys, a woman and two infants — who were sent back to China on Dec. 19 over the objections of the United States, the European Union and United Nations officials. They were forcibly returned the day before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinpin arrived in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, for a visit that yielded a package of loans and grants worth $1.2 billion.
The Uighurs, who made their way to Cambodia with the help of Christian missionaries, said they were fleeing a crackdown that followed deadly ethnic rioting in the China’s far western Xinjiang region in July 2009. Many of the 197 people dead were Han Chinese migrants killed during two days of violence in the regional capital, Urumqi. An unknown number of Uighurs were also killed or injured in a brief spasm of Han vigilante attacks that followed.
[…] In its only statement to date about the fate of the deportees, the Chinese Foreign Ministry suggested in February that the Uighurs had been tried or were set to face trial. “China is a country ruled by law,” Ma Zhaoxu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, wrote in response to questions sent by The New York Times. “The judicial authorities deal with illegal criminal issues strictly according to law.”
China has insisted the Uighurs were wanted in connection with the rioting, although they did not publicly provide any evidence of their involvement. In the months that followed the violence in Urumqi, hundreds of Uighurs were detained and at least nine were executed.
Human Rights Watch called on the Chinese government to account for the group.