Dushanbe (AsiaNews) – Tajikistan's parliament has unanimously approved a Tajik-Chinese agreement on the mutual extradition of suspected and convicted felons.
Presenting the bilateral agreement to lawmakers before the debate, Tajik Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmonov (pictured) urged passage in order to safeguard the rights of Tajik nationals in China and give them a chance to serve their terms in Tajik penitentiaries. However, the deal seems more useful to Beijing, which has been cracking down on the Uighur community for a long time.
China currently detains 16 Tajik nationals, including seven women. Four of those inmates, including one woman, are on death row and five more are serving life terms.
In Tajikistan, three Chinese nationals are currently serving prison terms, one for rape and two for endangering public health and drug trafficking.
Both Tajikistan and China are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia.
International human rights organisations have long been keeping such extradition agreements under scrutiny.
Ethnic Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim and live in Xinjiang province, have been particularly at risk in Chinese prisons. Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language, traditionally consider themselves much closer to the peoples of Central Asia.
Uighur nationalists dream of creating their own state, East Turkestan. However, under Chinese rule, all Uighurs have suffered discrimination and repression, accused by Chinese authorities of terrorism.
According to experts, China has signed extradition agreements with neighbours to get Uighurs exiles and inflict harsher punishment. Once in China, they are given long periods of imprisonment or even the death penalty.
For example, Kyrgyz officials said that they returned three Uighurs to China following a local court's ruling based on a bilateral agreement.
Kazakhstan too has repatriated several ethnic Uighurs who had demanded asylum in the Central Asian nation, earning criticism from domestic and international human rights organisations.