Deported Uighurs Highlight China’s Ties to Cambodia

Deported Uighurs Highlight China’s Ties to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Two days after Cambodia repatriated 20 Uighur asylum-seekers fleeing China, the two countries signed trade agreements worth more than $1 billion, bringing significant investment, loans and grants to the impoverished Southeast Asian nation. Both countries deny a deal was struck, but China's growing ability to leverage its economic power in the region combined with Cambodia's weak rule of law have observers believing otherwise.

China insisted the Uighurs were outlaws, saying they participated in deadly protests earlier this year, while Cambodia contended it was merely following its immigration laws by deporting them. Rights advocates, however, said the refugees fled China after witnessing police violence against other members of their ethnic group.

Uighurs are a Turkic, Sunni Muslim minority native to China's far-western Xinjiang province. Xinjiang has been buffeted by bombings, attacks and riots in recent years that Beijing has blamed on Uighur separatists demanding autonomy. Violent confrontations erupted in July between Uighurs and Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China, whose increased migration to the region has heightened ethnic tensions. Nearly 200 people were killed and another 1,600 wounded, according to media reports.

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