[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged the Chinese government to halt the deportation of Myanmar refugees. In a letter [text, PDF] sent to the Chinese Minister of Foreign affairs, the rights group said that the return of at least 4,000 ethnic Kachin refugees from Myanmar is a violation of international law. HRW dismissed claims by the Chinese government that the individuals returned to Myanmar were either not refugees or chose to return home voluntarily, noting that the Chinese government has not officially considered the refugee status of any of the asylum-seekers. In the letter, HRW noted that it had published a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] in June finding that although China had generally accepted the Myanmar refugees into its borders, they typically lived in poor conditions without access to adequate food, shelter or health care. HRW called on the Chinese government to prevent future abuses of refugees by allowing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees access to the remaining asylum-seekers in China, and to set up a process for legally establishing refugee status for individuals fleeing violence and persecution.
Myanmar has been working to eliminate sectarian violence within its borders, but has recently been criticized by different groups for its methods and for human rights abuses. Earlier this week Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) released a report concluding that Myanmar's army is still committing human rights abuses [JURIST report] against ethnic minorities in Karen state. Last week the country sentenced two UN staff members [JURIST report] to prison for their involvement in sectarian violence. This was one week after President Thein Sein announced creation of a 27-member commission [JURIST report] to investigate causes of the violence. Earlier this month, however, HRW accused Myanmar forces of committing multiple human rights violations [JURIST report] following an outbreak of sectarian violence. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also expressed concern [JURIST report] last month about both the continued violence in Myanmar and the country's human rights abuses committed in dealing with it.