NEW YORK: Egyptian authorities have arrested “dozens” of students from China’s Uighur Muslim ethnic minority “apparently to deport them” following a request from Beijing, Human Rights Watch said.
“The authorities should disclose their whereabouts, on what grounds they are held, and give them access to lawyers,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said in a statement tweeted on Wednesday by the organisation.
“Egypt should not deport them back to China, where they face persecution and torture,” said Whitson.
A traditionally Muslim group, many Uighurs complain of cultural and religious repression and discrimination by China.
Asked about the report, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that “as far as I know, China’s embassy in Egypt has sent consular officials to conduct consular visits,” without elaborating.
Uighur students and activists said police had raided two restaurants frequented by them in Cairo on Tuesday and arrested at least 30 people.
In Cairo, the Egyptian police denied requests for comment.
China’s vast Xinjiang region, home to many Uighur, has been racked for years by a series of violent attacks which Beijing blames on exiled Uighur separatist groups whom it says are aligned with foreign terrorist networks.
Rights groups have countered that unrest in the region is largely a response to repressive policies, and that tighter measures are counterproductive.