China on Friday lashed out at Turkey for offering shelter to roughly 300 Uighurs from the western Chinese region of Xinjiang who were rescued from a human-smuggling camp in Thailand; however, Turkish government is determined to host the Turkic refugees, who had escaped China and face death on return. The Human Rights Watch has applauded a request by Turkey to have a group of Uighurs discovered in a Thai border camp in March relocated to Ankara, highlighting the country's role in providing them with consular services. Phil Robertson, the deputy director of the organization's Asia Division, stated that the organization believed they should be allowed the freedom to go wherever they wanted.
"Thai officials have informed us that there is a human smuggling situation going on and say they will closely investigate the issue," Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said. "I brought the issue to the notice of the Thai foreign minister in New York and Chinese foreign minister in Beijing as well, and told them that Turkey wants to shelter those Uighurs."
Asked for a response on Turkey's offer, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the case was a matter for China and Thailand, and that Turkey should stop interfering.Thai immigration police detained dozens of people at a human smuggling camp in southern Thailand in March, who were later declared as illegal immigrants. Chinese officials in Thailand had identified the group as Uighurs from China's northwestern restive province of Xinjiang. The illegal immigrants, however, claimed to be Turkish nationals, fearing that they could face death if sent back to China. Human rights organizations, activists and analysts have said that Uighurs have been subject to religious, cultural and language restrictions, which have led them to flee China and helped fuel their demands for a separate state. They have frequently fallen victim to people smugglers as they seek a better life.