A Uyghur athlete has made Kyrgyzstan fencing history at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
Khasan Baudunov, who represents the Central Asian nation, came away from the games with two medals —a feat never accomplished by any other Kyrgyz fencer. He took the bronze in the boys’ epee, and a silver in the mixed team event, as part of one of two teams representing Asia.
Having tasted victory in Argentina, he returned home on October 21 to a hero’s welcome at Manas International Airport. Among the crowd of friends and family welcoming him were officials from Kyrgyzstan’s fencing federation, Olympic committee and state agency for youth, physical culture and sports.
The sword of destiny
Baudunov picked up fencing in 2014. In his Olympic profile, he says he was introduced to the sport by a friend, and when he first handled the epee he was mesmerized by the elegant weapon, and the beauty of the sport itself.
“Khasan played other sports in the past, including martial arts, but those types of sports didn’t really appeal to him,” his mother said in a telephone interview with RFA’s Uyghur Service. “Fencing drew him in like a magnet, so I encouraged him to take it up,” she said.
“Khasan’s coaches called me saying that my son is extremely talented. They said that nobody in Kyrgyzstan can match his skills and he’s always improving. Nobody has ever achieved what he has,” she added.
As many as 500 children of detained Uyghurs have been placed in a “closed school” in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture, in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), according to a source in exile, who said his two younger brothers are among those held.
A young Uyghur man named Jesur left his home in Kashgar’s Yarkand (Shache) county for Turkey in 2014 and shortly afterwards, in July of that year, Chinese authorities fired on residents of the county’s Elishku township who were protesting the detention of a dozen Uyghur women for praying overnight at a local mosque, killing what Uyghur exile groups say was as many as 2,000 people.
A crackdown by police in the county following the incident led to mass jailings of Uyghurs and a lockdown on communication in and out of the area, and Jesur lost contact with his family.
Jesur, now 23, told RFA’s Uyghur Service that he recently received a video in which his eight- and 10-year-old brothers tearfully informed him that several members of their family had been jailed or sent to political “re-education camps,” where authorities have detained Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.
Human rights experts at the United Nations began examining the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s rights record on Tuesday, amid protests over “disappeared” submissions from civic groups that the U.N. body later restored with an apology.
The 31st session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva began its assessment of China’s human rights record amid a global outcry over the mass incarceration of an estimated one million Uyghurs and other minority ethnic Muslims in “re-education camps” in its Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
But a consortium of rights organizations led by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said valuable information from non-government sources–including Uyghur groups –had been taken off the table ahead of the review.
“We are … dismayed by the fact that at least seven submissions were completely removed from consideration from the final document intended for U.N. member states to draft recommendations for China’s review,” HRW said in a statement.
The statement detailed “missing” contributions from the International Service for Human Rights, Hong Kong political party Demosisto, the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur Human Rights Project.
Officials at a university in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are forcing students and staff to forgo their Muslim dietary restrictions in favor of traditionally pork-heavy Han Chinese cuisine, saying halal food is associated with religious extremism.
A report recently published on the official website of Kashgar University, in the XUAR’s Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture, detailed an Oct. 22 meeting entitled “Remain Committed to Removing Extremism From Eating,” during which deputy secretary of the school’s Communist Party committee Ji Peng announced that all students and staff must swear an oath to “follow Chinese food culture.”
Ji informed students and staff that integrating cuisine would “promote exchanges” and “foster prosperity and development” between all ethnic groups, and called on them to “stand firm” in fighting against “pan-halalism,” which he called a tool of the “three evil forces” of “terrorism,” “extremism,” and “separatism,” used to promote their agenda in the name of religion.
Muslims are barred under their religion from consuming non-halal items such as pork, alcohol, blood, and the meat of animals that have not been slaughtered based on religious practices.
The details of the Oct. 22 meeting were made public amid recent reports that Chinese authorities have closed down all halal restaurants on university campuses in the XUAR and had initiated a campaign to remove halal signage from restaurants owned by Muslims in the region.
When asked by RFA’s Uyghur Service for further information about the new policy, a staffer at Kashgar University immediately hung up the phone.
France, Germany, the United States and other Western countries called on China on Tuesday to close down political re-education camps that Uyghur activists and human rights experts say hold one million Uyghurs and other Muslims.
The United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) began its assessment of China’s human rights record amid a global outcry over the mass incarceration of an estimated one million Uyghurs and other minority ethnic Muslims in “re-education camps” in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
While as many as 1,000 Uyghur and Tibetan protesters and supporters gathered outside the Geneva forum, which reports on alleged violations in each U.N. member state every five years, 13 countries raised concern about the camp program, with many calling on Beijing to shutter the facilities.
“We are alarmed by the government of China’s worsening crackdown on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” U.S. charge d’affaires Mark Cassayre was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.
The United States urged China to “abolish all forms of arbitrary detention, including internment camps in Xinjiang, and immediately release the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of individuals detained in these camps,” he said.
Authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have detained a well-known Uyghur philanthropist who housed the children of political prisoners, according to sources that said he may have been sentenced to nearly two decades in jail.
Nurtay Hajim, who is in his 60s, amassed a fortune through an international tourism and shipping firm he set up shortly after China expanded trade relations with the nations of Central Asia in the early 1990s.
According to a report published on China’s Sina.com, Hajim invested 3.8 million yuan (U.S. $548,700) in 2007 to launch the Nurtay Iskender School for Orphans, which offers free accommodation, food and education for 150 Uyghur children whose parents have died and other kids who lack guardians, from across the XUAR.
The businessman, who is admired in the Uyghur community for his generosity, has provided an annual donation of some 1.15 million yuan (U.S. $166,000) to the school to cover the costs of its students.
A Uyghur source from the XUAR recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service that Hajim had been taken into custody by local authorities shortly after returning to Ili Kazakh (in Chinese, Yili Hasake) Autonomous Prefecture’s Qorghas (Huocheng) county from a business trip to neighboring Kazakhstan.
Authorities in China should immediately and unconditionally release a prominent scholar of Uyghur culture who disappeared from the country’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in December and is believed held in a political “re-education camp,” according to a watchdog for academic freedom.
Rahile Dawut, a professor of Uyghur studies at Xinjiang University in the XUAR capital Urumqi, went missing in December 2017 after informing her family that she planned to travel to Beijing.
Family members announced her disappearance in August, and suspect she is among a growing number of Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas who since April 2017 have been jailed or detained in re-education camps throughout the XUAR, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.
In a statement on Wednesday, New York-based Scholars at Risk (SAR)—an international network of institutions and individuals promoting academic freedom—said it is “gravely concerned” for Dawut, noting that authorities have not publicly disclosed her whereabouts or details of her well-being, access to legal counsel, or any charges against her.
“SAR calls for letters, emails, and faxes respectfully urging authorities to secure Professor Dawut’s immediate and unconditional release and pending this, to publicly disclose the circumstances of Professor Dawut’s detention,” the group said.
Satellite imagery captured over a remote and highly volatile region of western China lifts the lid on the size and spread of internment camps used to indoctrinate vast numbers of the region’s Muslim population.
An investigation by ABC News using new research collated by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) think tank, identifies and documents the expansion of 28 detention camps that are part of a massive program of subjugation in the region of Xinjiang.
Analysis of the data shows that since the start of 2017, the 28 facilities have expanded their footprint by more than 2 million square metres. In the past three months alone, they’ve grown by 700,000 square metres – that’s about the size of 35 Melbourne Cricket Grounds.
Mihrigul Tursun is a 29-year-old Uyghur woman from northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) who gave birth to healthy triplets in Egypt while her husband was working there in 2015. Soon after her children were born, she returned to China seeking help from her parents to raise them, but was arrested by XUAR authorities upon arriving by plane in the regional capital Urumqi, and the triplets were taken from her. She was released on “parole” weeks later after learning that her children were suffering from a severe respiratory illness that required surgery, but one of her sons died under mysterious circumstances while being cared for in a local hospital.
In the years since the boy’s death, Tursun was taken into custody several times, including at one of a network of political “re-education camps,” where Chinese authorities began detaining Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in April 2017. Tursun said she was targeted because she had lived in Egypt—one of a number of countries blacklisted by authorities in the XUAR because of a perceived threat of religious radicalization.
While she was able to relocate to the U.S. in September, Tursun’s other son and daughter have developed health complications that require constant monitoring, and she has lost all contact with her husband and other family members. She recently spoke with RFA’s Uyghur Service about the struggle she endured during the three years she spent in the XUAR before fleeing China.
After more than a year of denying the existence of political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), a vast buildout of a system housing as many as a million Uyghurs has forced Beijing to acknowledge the facilities and justify them to the international community, according to a camp researcher based in Canada.
Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in re-education camps throughout the XUAR, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.
While Beijing initially denied the existence of such camps, the Uyghur chairman of Xinjiang’s provincial government, Shohrat Zakir, told China’s official Xinhua news agency earlier this month that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.
According to Zakir, Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims in the region are taught Mandarin at the camps, as well as important vocational skills and lessons on Chinese law, all while being provided with free meals in comfortable living conditions, and that they are free to come and go as they like.
Reporting by RFA and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.