The parents of a Uyghur journalist living in Sweden have been released from detention in northwest China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR) after she spoke with the media about the persecution they faced at the hands of local authorities, despite having spent their careers as loyal civil servants.
In a posting to her Twitter account on Thursday, Zulhumar Isaac wrote that her mother, Zohra Talip, and father, Isaac Payzulla, had returned to their home in the seat of the XUAR’s Kumul (in Chinese, Hami) prefecture after spending more than four months in regional political “re-education camps.”
“Just now I had a video chat with my parents,” wrote Isaac, a 31-year-old reporter who moved to Sweden in 2017 after living for 10 years in China’s capital Beijing and marrying an ethnic majority Han Chinese man.
“Papa said he shaved his head because the weather [is] getting too hot. Mama was super pale. But they are at home.”
The tweet marked an end to months of desperation for Isaac—one of many Uyghurs in exile who has worried about the fate of their relatives back home in the XUAR after learning about their detention in the camp network, where up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been held since April 2017.
News of the release of Isaac’s parents came less than a week after she spoke with RFA’s Uyghur Service about their detention, despite having lived “ideal” lives serving the Chinese government.
Isaac’s mother was detained on Nov. 5, 2018, and her father was arrested nearly two weeks later, she said at the time.
“A Chinese police officer called my aunt and told her to bring money and clothing for them, so she delivered what was asked for,” she said.
“But [my aunt] didn’t know where my parents were being detained, or whether or not she could visit them … The government and the police never gave us a reason for their detention.”
Isaac said both of her parents had graduated from the Northwestern Nationalities University in Gansu province’s capital Lanzhou before working at the Kumul Daily newspaper, followed by the Ethnic and Religious Commission in their hometown, and retiring in 2017.
“China claims it is fighting terrorism in XUAR and, unfortunately, many people in the West believe such lies,” she said.
“If China was fighting terrorism, why would authorities detain my parents, who had sacrificed their lives working for the Chinese government, and were retirees?”