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Chinese acrobats seek asylum in Canada
The Epoch Times
2/12/2004



On Jan. 9, seven Chinese acrobats form the Xinjiang Acrobatics Group defected while traveling in Canada. The seven have applied for refugee status from the Canadian government.

The Xinjiang Acrobatics Group includes a deputy administrator from the Xinjiang Culture Department, who was leading the team. They were on invitation from the Canadian Chinese Association and some Chinese communities in Canada. The group arrived in Canada last month, and participated in the “2004 Canada Chinese New Year Light Carnival,” in which they performed an acrobatics show.

After the activity finished, the Xinjiang Acrobatics Group went to visit Ottawa and meet with local Chinese. On the afternoon of Sunday Jan. 9, seven acrobats, not including the group leader and his assistant, disappeared.

On Jan. 10, the chair of the Canadian Uigur Association, Mr. Mohammed, confirmed that the seven acrobats who disappeared had already officially applied for refugee status. Mohammed said, “Currently their situation is pretty good and they have already applied for refugee status. Some of our members called me and said that they got the “paper” [identification card], and that everything has been well-arranged.”

He said that these seven acrobats are currently in Toronto, and that the seven people include five males and two females. The oldest is around 40 years old, and the youngest is 28 years old, and they are all top-notch acrobats in the Xinjiang Acrobatics Group.

Mohammed said, “Before they left Toronto, they contacted our Canadian Uigur Association members, and asked for us to help them stay in Canada. Later, our Uigur Association members discussed what to do and how to offer help.”
The Canadian Chinese Association, which invited the Xinjiang Acrobatics Group to Canada was surprised by the incident. Mr. Gulibarhar, who organized this activity, said, “We haven’t heard anything from them, but are still looking for them… The details of the situation are unknown. We are indeed waiting for them to come back.”

Incidents of performers from China seeking refugee abroad have occurred many times in the past. The largest incident was in the mid-1990s, when a group of more than 70 acrobats from Yunnan province disappeared while visiting Canada.

The Uigur people are a minority group living in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in northwestern China on the border of Mongolia and Kazakhstan. They speak and write Uigur, a Turkish language. Most Uigurs are Muslims. The Chinese government has persecuted the Uigur independence movement. Uigar activists have accused the Chinese government of suppressing the Uigur culture and language.

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