BEIJING (AP) – The Chinese government on Thursday criticized a U.S. decision to release three members of an ethnic minority from China who had been held at Guantánamo Bay to the Central European country of Slovakia.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China had sought the repatriation of the Uighur men, who are considered by Chinese authorities to be terrorist suspects. The U.S. said earlier this week it had released the men to Slovakia.
“They pose threats not only to China’s state security, but also to the security of the country which receives them,” Qin said. “China hopes the relevant countries can earnestly perform their international obligations, refrain from offering asylum to terrorists, and transfer them to China at an early date.”
The men were among about two dozen Uighurs captured in 2001 after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and kept at the U.S. base in Cuba. U.S. authorities did not turn them over to Beijing on fear they could be tortured.
The other Uighurs had been released to different parts of the world, but the last three men – Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik and Hajiakbar Abdulghuper – had insisted they be sent to places where they could be closer to Uighur communities, according to Rushan Abbas, a Uighur-American translator who worked on the case.
The U.S. government characterized their release as a step toward the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison.