A Muslim family was dragged out of the Belgian embassy in Beijing by Chinese police after Belgian officials allowed them to enter the building, it has emerged.
Their disappearance has sparked fears that they could have joined the estimated one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang’s notorious internment camps.
A Belgian diplomat was expected to travel to China’s restive Xinjiang region on Tuesday to try and confirm the whereabouts of the woman and her four children, who are members of the Uighur minority.
The woman’s husband, Adbulhamid Tursan, is a political refugee in Belgium. His wife, Horiyat Abula, and her four children travelled to Beijing at the end of May to complete missing paperwork for their family reunification visas.
Mr Tursan said he had not heard from his family since May 31, a few days after they were extracted from the embassy after refusing to leave when they were told it would take at least three months for their visas to be approved.
In the end, Chinese police "escorted them away,”the spokesman said.
Didier Reynders, Belgium’s foreign minister, said an embassy is not intended to "lodge people" applying for visas but added, “My only concern here is that we can reunite the family."
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"The Belgian embassy set an extremely bad example of how governments put economic interests above human rights," said Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International.
China’s foreign ministry and the Xinjiang government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.