Malaysia has freed 11 Uighurs who escaped from immigration detention in Thailand, their lawyer said yesterday, ignoring a request from Beijing to deport the group to China.
In the dramatic breakout in November last year, 25 members of the persecuted minority used blankets to climb out of their cells in a daring predawn escape from immigration detention in southern Thailand.
Eleven of them, all men, escaped overland to neighboring Malaysia, where they were caught and charged with illegal entry.
Southern Thailand and Malaysia share a common border, which is easily penetrable.
The group were freed and flew to Turkey on Tuesday, their lawyer Fahmi Abdul Moin said.
“Prosecutors decided to drop all charges on humanitarian grounds,” he said.
The decision was made after lawyers wrote to the Malaysian attorney general urging that the charges be withdrawn, Fahmi added.
In a faxed comment, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it was looking into the reports, but said it was opposed to “illegal immigration.”
“These people are Chinese and we are firmly against sending them to third countries,” it said. “We hope Malaysia attaches great importance to China’s position and concerns.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the group’s release.
“These 11 men faced detention, torture or worse if they were returned to China,” HRW deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson said.
China had asked Malaysia’s previous government to repatriate the group in February, but new Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has taken a more independent stand with Beijing.
Since coming to power in May, Mahathir has canceled more than US$20 billion of infrastructure projects backed by Chinese firms, including railways and gas pipelines.
Mahathir’s predecessor, former Malaysian prime minster Najib Razak, was seen as too friendly with Beijing.
Najib’s government last year deported to China 29 Uighurs it said were involved with Islamic militants.
A UN panel in August cited estimates that up to 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are held in internment camps.
A scathing US congressional report released this week accused China of the unprecedented repression of its ethnic minorities, including Uighurs, with authoritarian tactics potentially constituting “crimes against humanity.”
SIXTEEN LOCAL: Three COVID-19 infections are linked to a cluster at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 to a case in New Taipei City and three had unclear sources The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday urged people to increase vigilance and thoroughly practice preventive measures against COVID-19 as it reported 16 locally transmitted cases of the disease. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that 21 cases were confirmed in Taiwan yesterday: 16 local cases, four imported cases and one case undetermined. The locally transmitted cases are three linked to a cluster of infections at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 associated with a previous case in New Taipei City and three with unclear sources of infection. The CECC on Tuesday reported a cluster
ENFORCING CAUTION: Certain entertainment facilities are to close nationwide to prevent people traveling there from high-risk areas in the north, the center said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday raised the COVID-19 alert for Taipei and New Taipei City to level 3 in light of surging cases in the two cities. The enhanced disease prevention measures for level 3 are to be implemented until May 28, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a morning news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei. With 180 locally transmitted cases confirmed yesterday, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that the government must take immediate action to protect the public, referring to measures stipulated in the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法). Other counties
TRACING TROUBLE: An infected man who had said that all his children were abroad was found to have a daughter in Kaohsiung who tested positive, the center said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported a new daily record of 29 local COVID-19 cases, including seven cases with unknown sources of infection. Of the 29 cases, 16 are linked to tea houses in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a news briefing in Taipei. The 16 are tea house workers or visitors, or their contacts, the CECC said. Workers and visitors to the establishments have frequent interpersonal contact, but few protective measures against the COVID-19 pandemic are in place, Chen said, urging those who have been exposed or have
RISING TRANSMISSION: The center yesterday reported 333 domestic cases, including 241 cases linked to a cluster of infections from Taipei’s Wanhua District From 12am tomorrow to June 18, foreign nationals who do not hold a valid Alien Resident Certificate or resident visa will not be allowed to enter Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday, as it reported 333 local and two imported cases of COVID-19. Transits through Taiwan will also be suspended during the month-long period, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center. “The policy is aimed at conserving the nation’s disease prevention capacity,” he said. Although there had been few imported COVID-19 cases in the past few days, inbound travelers would still take up some