- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

Uighur prisoners held in Camp Delta at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, constitute an ongoing problem in U.S.-China relations.

Although the Pentagon is looking to release more than half the two dozen or so Uighurs, it will not return them to China.

The Bush administration has been unable to persuade any other country to accept them, and could damage its relations with China if it grants the detainees asylum in the United States.

Uighur militancy began to rise in Xinjiang province in the late 1980s, culminating in an uprising in 1990 at Baren, a small town near Kashgar. The Free Turkestan Movement led the disturbances, which caused 22 deaths.

This led to a crackdown on the Uighur population in Xinjiang.

Unrest in the region continued through the 1990s. Washington pressed human-rights issues in Xinjiang, while Beijing insisted that groups with ties to terrorist organizations in Central Asia were behind the attacks. Washington dismissed as propaganda Beijing’s contentions that Uighur groups fought alongside the hard-line Taliban regime in Afghanistan, branding it an excuse to quash political dissent. But Uighur militants were killed or captured while fighting alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

There is little reason to think the Bush administration will change its criticism of China’s human-rights record to repatriate the detained Uighurs. It has approached Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, Austria, and Turkey to accept the detainees, but in vain.

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