They had escaped from a detention center in Thailand after opening a gap in the wall and using blankets to lower themselves to the ground. Malaysia was only a temporary transit point, before clarifying their status as refugees with the UN High Commissioner (UNHRC) and reaching the Uyghur community in Turkey.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - Defying China, the Malaysian government has freed 11 Uyghurs, who escaped from a Thai prison last year. Against the will of Beijing, which called for their return to custody, Kuala Lumpur dropped accusations of illegal immigration and allowed former prisoners to reach Turkey to seek asylum.
According to observers, the move will further test relations with China, tense since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad came to power last May. Following what was promised during the election campaign, Mahathir has canceled more than 20 billion US dollars of projects assigned to Chinese companies.
Welcoming their lawyer's appeal, the judges of the Court of Kuala Lumpur have acquitted the 11 Uyghurs for "humanitarian reasons": they were fleeing the oppression of the Beijing government against the Islamic minority from Xinjiang. For them, Malaysia was only a temporary transit point, before clarifying the status of refugees with the UN High Commissioner (UNHRC) and reaching the Uyghur community of Turkey.
They had been fleeing since November 2017, when they escaped from a Thai detention center along with nine other inmates, after opening a gap in the wall and using blankets to lower themselves to the ground.
When they arrived in Malaysia, they were arrested in February. Responding to the extradition requests made by Beijing, the then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had declared his intention to seek a diplomatic solution with Thailand. Some Western delegations tried to dissuade Kuala Lumpur from extraditing the 11 to China.
Mahathir's designated successor as prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has recently called for formal talks with China regarding the repression against the Muslim minority. Anwar said the government raised the issue with Beijing, which sees the Uyghurs as an internal issue. He also criticized the governments of Muslim countries that are silent on the treatment that China reserves for Uyghurs. "They are afraid. Nobody wants to say anything, "he said.