Over 100 Muslim Uighur refugees who were deported from Thailand back to China last month are reportedly being held in detention as Chinese authorities examine them for possible connections to militant groups.
The 109 Uighurs in detention were found in Thailand last year after escaping persecution in their homeland, the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang, otherwise known as East Turkestan.
Their deportation back to China caused uproar in the international media, particularly in Turkey, where the country's people share close cultural ties with the Turkic-speaking Uighur people.
It is believed the Uighurs were planning to depart for Turkey, but China’s Global Times newspaper claims the group has links to militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Chinese media previously reported that 13 members of the group were terror suspects, showing them sitting in an aircraft with black hoods over their heads alongside masked Chinese police.
However, women and children are also said to be among the Uighurs still being detained by China.
According to a report released on August 5 the group clashed with Thai and Chinese police as they were being deported, fearing that they would be executed if repatriated to China.
The Uighur people are often faced with persecution by the Communist Chinese government, which enforces restrictions on their religion and culture.
The settling of Han Chinese people in Xinjiang has seriously changed the demographic balance of the region, with the indigenous Uighurs becoming a minority in their homeland.
Tensions between the Uighurs and Han Chinese settlers often spill over into violence, with Beijing regularly lashing out at "militant groups" seeking independence for the region and frequently linking Uighurs to violence in the Middle East without evidence.
Many analysts say China uses the situation in the Middle East as an excuse to harden its policies against the Muslim minority.