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 Guantanamo 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.
"We've long maintained our position that we will not repatriate Uighurs to China from Guantanamo due to our humane treatment policies," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
She said all 22 Uighurs who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay have now been resettled.
The last three men — Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper — 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. Slovakia is the sixth country to take some of the Uighur detainees.
Their release is a step toward the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, which still holds 155 prisoners.