Germany halts deportation of Chinese Muslims over human rights concerns

Germany said Thursday it would refrain from deporting members of China's mostly Muslim Uighur minority over human rights concerns, after admitting a Uighur man was sent back by mistake in April.

Germany halts deportation of Chinese Muslims over human rights concerns
Photo: DPA

In a case that made waves earlier this month, German authorities acknowledged that the 22-year-old asylum seeker, who was not named, was deported to China by the German state of Bavaria due to an administrative error.

The Uighur's lawyer Leo Borgmann has said he has had “no sign of life” from his client since the expulsion and fears that he has been “detained” by Chinese authorities.

After an outcry by human rights groups and opposition politicians, the interior ministry said in a written response to a query by  Greens MP Margarete Bause, that the practice had been halted.

“Until further notice, we will desist from repatriating Uigurs and their families,” the ministry said.

It cited “recent” guidance by Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) and the foreign ministry on the situation in China in its decision not to send Uighurs back.

“The highly critical situation in terms of human rights, which are stressed in the BAMF report, has been known to German authorities for months,” Bause told AFP, citing a “danger to life and limb” for Uighurs in China.

“The fact that the Uighur was expelled by the Bavarian authorities in the dead of night is scandalous.”

Bause called on the German government to do “everything in its power” to secure the return of the deported man from China.

Many of the Uighur minority say they face cultural and religious repression in China.

Members of the Uighur diaspora say relatives have been arrested for seemingly innocuous acts such as sending Ramadan greetings to friends or downloading popular music.

Chinese authorities are also believed to have detained hundreds of thousands of Muslims in a secretive network of extra-judicial political re-education centres, where inmates are given language and ideological training and forced to participate in military-style drills.

The German foreign ministry recently updated its travel advisory for China's far-west Xinjiang region.

“In Xinjiang there have for months been rising numbers of arrests and passports revoked,” it said.

“Those affected are, in particular, people of Uighur origin.”

China has pointed to a series of attacks in Xinjiang by suspected Islamist radicals in recent years as justification for a draconian clampdown in a region with a long history of tensions with Beijing.

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China derides Copenhagen democracy meet as ‘political farce’

China on Tuesday blasted a democracy conference in Copenhagen attended by Taiwan's president and a Hong Kong activist alongside Danish government officials this week, qualifying it a "political farce".

China derides Copenhagen democracy meet as 'political farce'
Demonstrators gathered outside the Copenhagen Democracy Summit on Tuesday. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Copenhagen Democracy Summit was held Monday and Tuesday in the Danish capital and organised by the Alliance of Democracies, an organisation targeted by Beijing sanctions in March and founded by former NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

In addition to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod also participated in the forum by video link, which Beijing said violated “the one-China principle.”

“This summit is a political farce,” the Chinese embassy in Denmark wrote in a statement published on Tuesday. “Inviting those who advocate Taiwan and Hong Kong ‘independence’ to the meeting violates the one-China principle and interferes in China’s internal affairs,” it said.

“Some hypocritical western politicians are good at meddling in other countries’ internal affairs and creating divisions and confrontation in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. They are bound to fail,” it added.

At the conference on Monday, Kofod said it was “deplorable” that Beijing had imposed sanctions on 10 European individuals and organisations in response to EU sanctions on Xinjiang officials over their actions against the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Like most countries, Denmark applies the one-China principle — under which Beijing bars other countries from having simultaneous diplomatic relations with Taipei — though it does maintain relations with Taiwan.

Cut off politically from the rest of China since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the territory is self-governing but is not recognised by
the United Nations.

Beijing considers Taiwan a rebel province that will one day return under its control, by force if necessary.

China’s sabre-rattling has increased considerably over the past year, with fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers breaching Taiwan’s air defence zone on a near-daily basis.

“Our government is fully aware of the threats to regional security, and is actively enhancing our national defence capabilities to protect our
democracy,” Tsai told the conference in a video address on Monday. US President Joe Biden is expected to present his China strategy soon, as
calls mount for him to publicly commit to defending Taiwan militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.