[JURIST] China reiterated its request Thursday that all Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] be returned to China [press release, in Mandarin] after the prison's closing. Spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website, in Mandarin] Jiang Yu [official profile] said that China objects to other countries accepting any one of the 17 detainees and that international law dictates they be sent back. The statement comes just two days after three Uighurs sought refugee status in Canada [JURIST report], but it is not clear whether they will be accepted [Reuters report]. China maintains the detainees should be brought back to face charges that they are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a militant group calling for separation from China and designated a terrorist group by the United States for suspected ties to al Qaeda. The US government has been hesitant to release the Uighurs back to China, fearing they will tortured upon their return.
In July, China reportedly executed two Uighurs [JURIST report] alleged to be members of the ETIM. Thirteen other Uighurs were given jail terms ranging from ten years to life imprisonment. In 2006, China criticized the US for releasing five Uighurs to Albania [JURIST reports], where officials reviewed their applications for asylum. In 2005, a US district judge ruled [JURIST report] that two Uighurs at Guantanamo Bay could be detained indefinitely even though their imprisonment was unlawful because they could face death or torture in China. The US State Department has said the Uighurs are among detainees who will be released [JURIST report] once the US receives assurances that they will not be persecuted in their home countries or finds other countries willing to accept them.