Malaysia will not send back Uighurs fleeing persecution in China, President Mahathir Mohamed said Friday.

“If Uighurs are fleeing to Malaysia to seek asylum, Malaysia will not extradite them even if there is an application from China [to do so],” Malaysia’s local news agency Malaysiakini quoted the prime minister as saying.

Underlining that Uighur Muslims are not “fairly protected” in their hometown, Mahathir said they should be granted the right to seek asylum in another country.

China is accused of carrying out repressive policies against the Turkic Muslim group and restraining its religious, commercial and cultural rights.

Read more: Malaysia not to extradite Uighurs seeking asylum