Isa is on China’s ten most-wanted list. He is accused of being a troublemaker and of organising attacks against ethnic Han Chinese in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.
“Of course South Korean authorities never told me exactly very openly, 'Because of China's pressure we arrested you or we don't let you in to South Korea.' They never told me that line. But actually it is the reason," Isa said on his return to Germany. He had travelled to South Korea to attend a conference on democracy.
South Korean authorities have not said anything about the incident, but Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that the two governments have had contacts over the Uyghur dissident. She said Isa is a major leader of the East Turkestan Liberation Organisation.
For some analysts, South Korea’s decision to give in to Chinese pressure marks a turning point in Seoul’s foreign policy. After decades of harsh military dictatorship, South Korea developed into a Western-styled democracy in the last two decades, based on respect for human and civil rights. Hundreds of political refugees from China and North Korea were welcomed.
However, the current economic downturn has changed the game. As a major carmaker, South Korea needs access to China’s vast domestic market to sell its vehicles and maintain a strong GDP.
China, which has survived almost without a scratch the plunge of financial markets, is flexing its muscles to get its way on a number of very sensitive issues.