BEIJING, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- China says the United States should have sent the three Uighurs at the Guantanamo Bay detention center to China and not to Slovakia as they are terrorists.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang at his media briefing said the three detainees belong to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is listed as a terrorist group and sanctioned by the United Nations.
He said the Uighurs posed a threat to the security of China and they should have been handed over to China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Qin said the United States should abandon double standards and avoid sending the wrong signal to violent terrorist forces.
The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims, mostly residing in China's far western Xinjiang region, where they resent being ruled by the majority Han Chinese. There have been a number of violent ethnic clashes in the region, resulting in the deaths of dozens of people.
Responding to a question at her media briefing Thursday on sending the three Guantanamo Bay detention center inmates to Slovakia, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said her government "long ago determined that it did not seek to detain these individuals, the Uighurs, as enemy combatants."
She said they were among 17 ordered released from the detention center by a U.S. federal court in 2008.
"Five other Uighur detainees had already been released by that point. We started with 22. So now all 22 Uighur detainees originally detained have been resettled. Slovakia is the sixth country to resettle Uighurs from Guantanamo," she said.
In the latest incident of violence in Xinjiang, police there shot and killed eight people last Monday during what was described by the official media as a terrorist attack. Earlier in December, the media reported that 16 people, including two police officers, died in a similar attack, but in either case did not identify the ethnicity of the victims.
The Xinjiang-Uighur region is close to the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. China maintains foreign Uighur groups linked to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement are to blame for the trouble in the region. The World Uighur Congress, based in Stockholm, Sweden, disputes the allegations.
Qin, citing Harf's earlier comment on last Monday's violence in Xinjiang, said it was a "terrorist attack, with solid evidence," and that China opposes countries against holding double standards on such issues.
"The U.S. State Department comments ignore the facts, sound feeble and can't be justified. People of the U.S. are also victims of terrorism. Do not do to others what you don't want done to yourself," Qin said. "If such incidents happened in the U.S., and other countries made similar comments, how will the U.S. people feel about them?"
On the Chinese demand that the three should have been sent back to China, Harf said: "We've long maintained our position that we will not repatriate Uighurs to China from Guantanamo, due to our humane treatment polities."
She also said the United States is taking all steps to reduce the detainee population at the Guantanamo Bay center in Cuba and "it is certainly our position that these latest transfers mark an important step in furthering that objective."