Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

China warns on Guantanamo inmates

US military guards escort a Guantanamo detainee (6 December 2006)
There are still 245 detainees at Guantanamo Bay

China has warned that it strongly opposes any country accepting Muslim Chinese inmates from the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay.

The foreign ministry reaffirmed its stance on the 17 Uighur prisoners at the centre in Cuba a day after Canada denied it would take in three of them.

New US President Barack Obama says the centre will close by the end of 2009.

The 17 Uighurs have been cleared for release but US officials cannot find a country willing to take them.

Beijing has demanded their return, but Washington says they could face persecution or torture if sent back to China.

Seeking autonomy

"We hope the relevant parties can deal with the issue properly in accordance with international practice," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Fu said.

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Ethnically Turkic Muslims, mainly in Xinjiang
Made bid for independent state in 1940s
Sporadic violence in Xinjiang since 1991
Uighurs worried about Chinese immigration and erosion of traditional culture

"As for those Chinese terror suspects that are kept in Guantanamo, as we have stated before, we strongly oppose any country accepting these people."

Her comments come a day after Canada denied a newspaper report that they were close to accepting three of the Uighur prisoners.

Human rights group Amnesty International and several churches in Canada have been putting pressure on Ottawa to grant the three refugee status.

The 17 Uighurs were among a group captured in Afghanistan in 2001, and cleared for release in 2004.

Albania took in five Uighurs released from Guantanamo Bay in 2006.

Many Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang in western China want greater autonomy for the region and some want independence.

Beijing has waged a campaign against what it calls their violent separatist activities.

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