China slams Switzerland for accepting Uighurs from Guantanamo
China criticized the Swiss government on Thursday for agreeing to accept two Uighur brothers currently held at the US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, DPA reported.
"The Chinese authorities have expressed their dissatisfaction," said a spokesman for the Swiss embassy in Beijing.
The spokesman said the Swiss ambassador went of his own accord to the Chinese Foreign Ministry to explain his government's decision to accept the brothers from the Uighur ethnic minority group.
Ma Zhaoxu, a ministry spokesman, said the decision would "surely undermine China-Switzerland relations."
Ma said the Uighurs still held at Guantanamo Bay were all suspected members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is listed by the United Nations as an international terrorist group.
Switzerland said the two brothers - members of a mainly Muslim minority in China that has long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Han majority - would be housed in Jura, a canton in the alpine land's north-west, said a statement from the Federal Council, or cabinet.
Rebiya Kadeer, the head if the US-based Uighur American Association advocacy group, welcomed the Swiss decision, saying it would allow the two men "to live free and productive lives."
"The government and people of Switzerland have made an extraordinary humanitarian gesture, which is even more remarkable in the face of unrelenting pressure from China not to accept the two men," Kadeer said in a statement Thursday.
US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said the United States was also grateful to the Swiss for the "humanitarian gesture and for its consistent support of our efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility."
China had pressed the Swiss to not accept the prisoners although the canton, or state, had expressed willingness to accept the two.
Swiss authorities said they discussed the matter with the Uighur brothers prior to making the decision. A security assessment was also conducted.
Switzerland, which considers the jail a violation of international law, has said it would help the US shut down the centre by taking in some of the about 190 detainees left at Guantanamo.