BEIJING (Reuters) - Some of the 109 Uighurs returned to China from Thailand last month attacked Thai and Chinese police while being taken aboard a flight back to Xinjiang, as they believed they would be executed on their return, Xinjiang’s government said on Tuesday.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Muslim Uighurs keen to escape unrest in China’s far western Xinjiang region have traveled clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey, home to a large Uighur diaspora.
The return of the group from Thailand in July sparked anger in Turkey, and fed fears among rights groups and the United States about potential mistreatment.
In a report on official website Tianshan Net, the Xinjiang government said the rumors that spread among the group waiting to be deported included one that they would be put to death.
“Certain people used this to stir up some of those being deported to attack Thai and Chinese police as they were boarding,” the government said.
One man, named in the report in Chinese as Kudusi Tuohutiyusufu, suffered head injuries when being “subdued” at the airport, but his mental state had “relaxed” on his return.
“The attitude of the police toward us is very good. They took me to see the doctor and now my wound is much better,” the report quoted him as saying.
Thailand’s foreign ministry said no violence had occurred.
“We checked with security regarding the 109, and we can say that no physical force or use of force happened,” spokesman Sek Wannamethee told Reuters.
Foreign media have been denied access to the Uighurs since their return, and it has not been possible to independently verify their condition, or the government or state media accounts.
Most of the group are being detained in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, the government said.
“Life is quite good after returning,” said one Uighur woman, named as Guliniyazi Shawuti. “It’s completely different from what I heard would happen when I was abroad.”
Beijing blames Islamist militants for violent attacks in Xinjiang in the past three years that have killed hundreds. It says traffickers trick Uighurs to leave China and fight in Syria and Iraq.
In July, state media said at least 13 of those returned had been suspected of “terror” offences, and broadcast images of people shrouded in hoods being taken off an aircraft.
World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit said China had “monopolized” information about the returned Uighurs.
“China uses bombastic propaganda to distract from the outside world’s worries about the plight of those sent back,” he said in an email.
Reporting by Michael Martina; Additional reporting by Amy Lefevre in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Clarence Fernandez