Cambodian officials say they will deport 20 Muslim Uighurs who fled there after the July unrest in northwest China's Xinjiang region.
A Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman, Koy Kuong, said Saturday that the group would be expelled because they had entered the country illegally. He did not say when they would be deported or what their destination would be.
The announcement comes as Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visits Cambodia on Sunday as part of a four-country tour.
Human-rights groups say the Uighurs, who arrived in Cambodia last month, face possible torture and execution if they are returned to China. Authorities in China say the Uighurs are under investigation for criminal activities related to ethnic clashes in Xinjiang that killed nearly 200 people.
Christian missionaries helped the Uighurs reach Cambodia last month. The group has applied for refugee status at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Phnom Penh. If granted that would compel Cambodia to take them in under international law.
In a statement published by The New York Times, China's Foreign Ministry said the Uighurs in Cambodia are suspected criminals, and as such should not be allowed to use the U.N. refugee system to escape punishment.
Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minority concentrated in western China. Like many Tibetans, they complain of discrimination and cultural and economic domination by the country's majority Han Chinese.
China detained hundreds of people after the clashes in July between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese. At least 17 people have been sentenced to death in connection with the deadly riots.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.