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Diplomatic memos reveal Chinese effort to block Guantánamo prisoner's asylum bid

The US has cleared the Uighur prisoners at Gitmo of wrongdoing, but China calls them "terrorists." Seventeen Uighurs are seeking political asylum in Sweden, Canada, the US, and Germany.

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Professor Bovingdon, of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, explains China's efforts as attempts "to nullify Uighur political activism inside, and outside, Xinjiang." He views such efforts as part of a campaign "to delegitimize" Uighur groups, noting Chinese attempts to "depict Uighur separatists, and even Uighur dissidents" who are nonviolent and do not explicitly advocate independence for Xinjiang, as "terrorists."

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China's actions arise from a concern over the possibility of a "post-Soviet 'breakup,' political domino effect that involves foreign intervention," with this potential scenario occurring "in the name of humanitarian protections," Bovingdon says, adding that China is concerned that this could conceivably provide a shield for Uighur or Tibetan secession.

China's Stockholm embassy spokesperson previously told the Monitor that no government "wants fragmentation of its own state."

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, sees Chinese "pressures" as emphasizing the "need to ensure that the other Uighurs – those still in Guantánamo as well those four remaining in Albania, – are protected from the risk of being deported to China."

Reflecting widely felt European sentiment, Commissioner Hammarberg then addressed the implications presented by the long incarceration of men found to be innocent.
"US authorities have the primary responsibility for correcting the damage they brought on these persons, and should offer them permits to stay. However, European countries should be prepared to receive some of these wrongly detained people as well."

Referring to US Attorney General Eric Holder's recent request that Germany accept nine of the Guantánamo Uighurs, Hammarberg says, "It is encouraging that Germany appears to be ready to welcome a group of them."

Jens Ploetner, spokesman for the German Foreign Office, addressed the issue of Chinese "pressures" only by saying that the "German Foreign Office is aware of the Chinese concerns." He added that Germany is "at the beginning of an internal discussion within the German government and with our partners," adding, "no concrete decision has been taken yet."

Mr. Ploetner also added, however, that as Germany was among the first of those to call for the closure of Guantánamo, "it is therefore only logical that we are now looking into ways how to support the efforts of the new US administration to close the camp."

Enduring stigma from Guantánamo

Hakimjan, the Uighur who is now trying to rebuild his life in Sweden, says he feels blighted by the terrorist label. After he was released from the prison, he said he sometimes felt as if someone "put a hat on my head with the writing 'terrorist,' and it's extremely difficult to take off this hat and throw it away."

In an interview with the Monitor following Sweden's recent decision to provide him with protection, one of the first things Hakimjan said was that "I hope the world now realizes I'm not a dangerous person and that my friends are not, as well."