Uighurs who were returned to China from Thailand attacked police, China says

Uighurs being deported from Thailand are seen brought off an airplane by police in China.
Uighurs being deported from Thailand are seen brought off an airplane by police in China. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) - Some of the 109 Uighurs returned to China from Thailand last month attacked Thai and Chinese police while being taken aboard a flight back to Xinjiang, as they believed they would be executed on their return, Xinjiang's government said on Tuesday.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Muslim Uighurs keen to escape unrest in China's far western Xinjiang region have travelled clandestinely via South-east Asia to Turkey, home to a large Uighur diaspora.

The return of the group from Thailand in July sparked anger in Turkey, and fed concern among rights groups and the United States that they could be mistreated.

In a lengthy report on official news website Tianshan.net, the Xinjiang government said that rumours spread like wildfire among the group waiting to be deported, including one that they would be put to death.

"Certain people used this to stir up some of those being deported to attack Thai and Chinese police as they were boarding," the government said.

One man, named in the report in Chinese as Kudusi Tuohutiyusufu, suffered head injuries when being "subdued" at the airport, but his mental state had "relaxed" on his return.

"The attitude of the police toward us is very good. They took me to see the doctor and now my wound is much better," the report quoted him as saying.

Foreign media have not been given access to the Uighurs since their return, and it has not been possible to independently verify their condition or accounts by the government or state media.

Most of the group are being detained at a holding site in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, the government said.

"Life is quite good after returning," said one Uighur woman, whose name was given in Chinese as Guliniyazi Shawuti. "It's completely different from what I heard would happen when I was abroad."

The report said the authorities had also provided fruit and traditional Uighur food, including a pilaf dish.

Beijing blames Islamist militants for violent attacks in Xinjiang in the past three years in which hundreds have died. It says Uighurs are being tricked by traffickers to leave China and fight in Syria and Iraq.

In July, Chinese state media said at least 13 of those returned had been suspected of "terror" offences, and broadcast images of people being bundled out of an aircraft with black hoods over their heads.

The United States condemned their deportation. Human rights and exiled Uighur groups have said they would face persecution or torture in China, statements Beijing has denied.