Egyptian authorities are arresting and deporting Chinese Uighur students on Beijing’s request to send them back to China, drawing the condemnation of several rights groups, Radio Free Asia reports.
According to Al Jazeera, Egyptian police have raided restaurants and supermarkets popular with Uighur students in Cairo and Alexandria. At least 100 people across the country have been detained, with several deported, according to the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms (ECRF). These actions have driven many to desperate measures to avoid being forcefully returned to China where the Uighurs have historically been victims of state persecution.
One Uighur student in Egypt sent his pregnant wife to an airport in Hurghada to escape to safety in Turkey, where rights groups have been sending other students. He later found out his wife had been detained on her way to the airport this past Sunday.
“I am so worried right now and I do not know what to do,” the student said to RFA, on condition of anonymity.
China has around 20 million Muslims spread throughout the country; the Uighurs, a Turkic-ethnic group native to Central and Eastern Asia, make up a portion of this group. They primarily live in Xinjiang, a province in western China that has seen unrest due to the years of persecution the group has faced by the Chinese government, including restrictions on the practice of their faith. For example, devotees of the faith are banned from fasting during Ramadan. State officials blame recent terror attacks on Uighur separatists.
Students are not exempt from this treatment, including those abroad. The recent call for them to return has been described as a move to investigate their political views by authorities in China’s ruling Communist Party.
The Egyptian police has denied Al Jazeera’s request for comment. A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged the detentions in Egypt and that officials in China’s embassy in Egypt do conduct “consular visits”, but did not elaborate further.
Serious risk of detention and torture back home
Rights groups are decrying the Chinese and Egyptian authorities’ action on Uighurs in Egypt, many of whom are students at the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Egypt’s capital.
“We strongly condemn the Chinese government for exporting its repression of the peaceful Uighur people into other countries,” Uighur Human Rights Project director Omer Kanat said in a statement.
“The detained and deported Uighurs were simply religious students studying at Al-Azhar University. They didn’t commit any kind of crimes.”
Human Rights Watch said those forcibly returned were at serious risk of arbitrary detention and torture.
“The Egyptian authorities should halt this outrageous round-up of Uighurs,” Human Rights Watch Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson, according to RFA.
“Uighurs living in Egypt should be free from fear of arbitrary arrest and deportation to a country where they risk persecution and torture.”