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No Official Word on Uighur Asylum Seekers

The UNHCR has not received any official requests from the Chinese government regarding reported asylum seekers from the Uighur minority, an official said Thursday.

China’s foreign ministry is investigating reports that 22 members of the Muslim Uighur community are seeking asylum in Cambodia, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The Uighurs have reportedly entered Cambodia and sought asylum through the UN’s refugee office in Phnom Penh, following unrest in their home province of Xinjiang in July.

“We have a good cooperative relationship with Cambodia on every level,” Reuters quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu as saying in Beijing.

“We hope the international community can enhance cooperation in the fight against terrorism.”

A UNHCR official who asked not to be named said news reports had reached the agency, but no official requests had come from China.

Chinese Embassy and government officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Sara Colm, a Cambodia-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the asylum seekers must be protected.

“Our concern is that, if forced back to China, they face the very strong risk of being arrested and detained, possibly tortured in detention, and even executed,” she said.