The South Korean authorities should immediately release Dolkun Isa, Secretary General of the World Uighur Congress, unless he is to be charged with an internationally recognized criminal offence, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
The organization said that under no circumstances should he be deported to China where he would risk arbitrary detention, unfair trial, torture and other ill-treatment and possibly even the death penalty.
“Dolkun Isa is a human rights defender. If there is clear evidence that Dolkun Isa has broken any laws the authorities should charge him otherwise he must be released,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Deputy Director.
Dolkun Isa told Amnesty International by phone on Thursday that he has been held at Incheon International airport in Seoul for over 42 hours. He was told he would be returned to Germany but has been stopped from boarding a flight.
Dolkun Isa was in Seoul to attend the World Forum for Democratization in Asia. He fled China in 1997 obtaining asylum in Germany and became a German citizen in 2006.
The Chinese authorities have accused the World Uighur Congress and its President Rebiya Kadeer in particular, of having masterminded recent riots in Urumqi. The authorities have not substantiated such claims with any credible evidence.
The Chinese authorities often label any independent expression of Uighur ethnic identity as “separatism” or “religious extremism”. The authorities have mounted an aggressive campaign against the so-called “three forces” of “separatism”, “terrorism” and “religious extremism” in the region. Subsequently, many Uighurs are arbitrarily detained and imprisoned as political prisoners or prisoners of conscience.
The July 2009 unrest was said to have began with peaceful demonstrations by Uighurs to protest the authorities’ initial inaction following the death of two Uighur workers after a violent riot at a factory in southern China (Shaoguan, Guangdong province) on 26 June.
Discriminatory government policies have sparked clashes in the XUAR before. In the past, the Chinese authorities have responded by labelling the clashes “counter-revolutionary” or “separatist” and responded heavy-handedly.
The World Uighur Congress is a legally constituted non-governmental organizations based in Germany which advocates for human rights and self-determination for Uighurs and adheres to peaceful and non-violent methods.